Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bullshit Building 14: Vaux-le-Vicomte

From this blog
If we want to discuss "Bullshit building," it is impossible to avoid talking at least once about palaces and mansions. So, let's start with one of the most bullshit one: Vaux-le-Vicomte.

The Origins
Nicolas Fouquet was a lucky man. He got a position as the minister of finance during the reign of the famous Louis XIV. He exploited that position by enriching himself enormously. The king already unhappy of his performance, and the fact that Jean-Baptiste-Colbert feeding the king with bad news and rumors about Fouquet was not helping him. He really pushed his luck when he decided to show-off his wealth in a spectacular fashion. The climax of this show-off was his Vaux-le-Vicomte project.

The gardens, from wikipedia

The Palace
To build this palace, Fouquet demolished 3 villages, and took their inhabitants to work on this palace. Around 18.000 villagers were working as maids, gardeners, etc. to maintain this palace. Classy! 

He also hired famous architect, Louis Le Vau to design the palace, and famous garden designer, Andre Le Notre to design its garden. He lavished the interior of the palace with diverse work of arts from famous artists like Francois Girardon (sculptor), Charles le Brun (painter) etc. Heck, Le Brun even painted the dome of this palace! Really classy!

For your information, before the building of this palace, Fouquet already famous for his art collection. In this palace, finally he could line-up all his collections, and show how artistic and rich he was. Err ... classy?

The garden is no less luxurious. It was lavished with famous sculpting, fountains, etc. Le Notre even used some optical illusion, called anamorphosis abscondita, to enhance the grandeur of the garden. Have I told you that Fouquet tried REALLY hard to be classy?

The Hall of Hercules. Source.

Neptune! From wikipedia
The End
Now, we must put all of this into perspective. Fouquet was NOT a monarch, but this palace of him surpassed so many palaces of that time. Oh yeah, at that time France also ran a very large deficit.

Fouquet didn't realize that a deficit economy is never a good time to boast the wealth of the finance minister, since he boasted this palace in front of the king. He specifically invited the king to Vaux-le-Vicomte, and even arranged a spectacular and extremely expensive performances, coupled with an impressive fireworks show. This man "really know" when, where, and to whom to show-off! 

Naturally the King was far from happy. Only weeks after that, Fouquet was arrested for corruption & incompetence, while his wife was exiled. Yes, this is the first bullshit building in my list that directly caused its owner to be jailed. If building an extremely luxurious palace caused you to be arrested is not bullshit, I don't know what is. 

Oh, one last thing. Louis XIV was appalled by Fouquet, but this bullshit palace inspired him to build even larger and grander bullshit palace. The architects, artists, and craftsmen who worked for this bullshit palace was hired to build the new palace.  Many of the artworks in Vaux-le Vicomte were confiscated, and brought to the new palace.   Today, we all know this new palace as the Versailles. That is of course, another story ...

Previous Bullshit Building: The Vatican
Next Bullshit Building: Peter the Great Statue

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