A Conversation on France’s Historic Château de Vaux-Le-Vicomte

February 19, 2015 | By French Culture

On Thursday, February 19th, 2015, the French reading room and bookshop Albertine hosted a conversation and reception with Alexandre de Vogüé, Owner and Director of Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Nicola Courtright, Art Historian, on France’s Historic Château de Vaux-Le-Vicomte. In his opening remarks, Cultural Counselor Antonin Baudry explored the political and cultural significance of this site and its owner, Nicholas Fouquet, whose 400th anniversary will soon be commemorated in France.


Good evening! Thank you for joining us tonight for this rare and wonderful opportunity to explore the Château de Vaux le Vicomte.

We are very fortunate to have Alexandre de Vogüé, the Owner and Director of Château de Vaux le Vicomte, with us, along with Nicola Courtright, the Chair of European Studies at Amherst College and Editor-in-Chief of Grove Art Online – and a great Art Historian.

A big thank you also to our partners at the Clark Institute, especially to its Director, Michael Conforti, and to Elena Siyanko, as well as Atout France and its Director, Anne-Laure Tuncer, for organizing with us. We are very glad to be starting this new partnership.

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What are Vaux le Vicomte and Nicolas Fouquet symbols of?  In more than one way, both mark the major transformations of history and culture of France at the time.  For those of you who are perhaps unfamiliar with the Château, I can’t encourage you enough to visit it.  After seeing it in the flesh, you will perfectly understand the stakes of that Century.  

Fouquet occupied one of the highest positions with respect to the State and witnessed a key period in our history – a time when the modern financial system of France was defined, the internal distribution of power within the state was reformed, and a fragile balance of religions was maintained.  In 2015, under the guidance of De Vogüé Family, Château de Vaux le Vicomte will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of this important figure of French History.

The Château itself represents the epitome of excellence in French architecture and arts. Alexandre de Vogüé and Nicola Courtright will, in a few moments, explain it all better than I could.  Still today, we are stunned by the list of artists who collaborated to create Vaux le Vicomte:  the architect Louis Le Vau, painter Charles le Brun, and landscaping architect André Le Nôtre were the same “Dream Team” employed to create the earlier Château de Vincennes.  They would be later commissioned for the Château de Versailles.  This continuity thus created a singular genealogy in the history of French architecture.  

The Château’s aesthetics were founded on the interplay between arts and mathematics, the precise intersection of geometry and design, art and intelligence.  This confluence reveals an extraordinary union of diverse conceptual methods in a single project. It indicates another attitude, which offers a way of analyzing an idea from many different, varied angles and defines the intellectual approach of the modern man. Happily, France has kept up this interdisciplinary balancing act, and it even serves as a common thread throughout our heritage. 

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Ladies and gentlemen, Vaux le Vicomte is an integral part of our French history and is a continual source of inspiration. 

For those who would like to explore the Château even further after the discussion, I invite you to explore a selection of books related to the château that were put together by the Albertine team.

I know that our speakers have a lot to share this evening, so I will now pass the floor over to Michael Conforti, Director of the Clark Institute.

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