Louis Le Vau (1612 – 11 October 1670) was a French Classical architect who worked for Louis XIV of France. He led the building of the Versailles Palace in Paris during the 17th century. For many of his contemporaries such as Charles Le Brun and Andre Le Notre, he was a great person to work with. He was often extravagant in his designs that appealed to the taste of the extravagant king himself, Louis XIV. He was one of the architects behind the creation of several national and historical landmarks such as Palais du Louvre, Vaux-le- Vicomte and the College des Quatre-Nations.
Louis was one of the French artists that had a successful career in Paris solely, without traveling to other countries. He worked as a Chief Architect to the King for most years until his mature age. Therefore, he essentially designed Paris and established the very foundation to what the city would look like hundreds of years later.
Louis Le Vau was born 1612 in Paris, France. His first exposure to architecture with his father who was a stone mason. There are such little documents to identify that his earliest novitiate and education to some local artists, though. It is known that he was heavily influenced by the works of Bernini and Pietro da Cortona, prominent Italian architects.
With Le Vau’s track of the record, it would seem that he had an architectural training during his boyhood. In 1634 stages of his career were spent designing Hotel de Bautru. This went successfully that he took it to a higher level in short time after completing Bauer’s design. He was awarded the commission to design a very elegant hotel that would be named as Hotel Lambert.
Hotel Lambert was his first major accomplishment. And at a young age, he was already an in-demand architect in the city. He would have also worked on designs of Ile Saint-Louis, which was created based on his knowledge and experience in French classicism and Baroque styles.
In 1654, he contributed to the building of Louvre Palace by redesigning its hall wings and by adding a colonnade. The 1650’s eventually became the golden years of his independent career in the series of royal commissions he had been receiving.
He began working on the designs of the Chateau Vaux-le- Vicomte, a considered masterpiece in the history of architecture in 1656. This was owned and commissioned by Nicolas Fouquet, to the Finance Minister the King.
The chateau is also considered as a very important architectural work produced at the time of Baroque period. It is because he and his company of architects made an exceptional design that displays all the characteristics of the said period; order, balance, and grand form to exhibit an overwhelming power and elegance.
By design, Chateau Vaux-le- Vicomte is perfect for the King, and everything went according to the minister’s plan on impressing his majesty. This plan backfired on him when the monarch was told to believe that Fouquet misused the public funds to be able to finish the lavish and grand chateau. Fouquet undeniably had elaborate plans for the chateau’s garden and castle that he had to demolish the villages that surrounded it.
Louis Le Vau’s works on the Versailles Palace began in 1667 until 1670. He worked alongside Jules Hardouin Mansart who was another illustrious architect. He was appointed as the structural architect of the palace while working alongside him were Le Notre and Le Brun as landscape architects.
In 1669, he focused on redecorating the Marble Court, which was a part of his structural project. He transformed it into a grand palace from its original structure, which was a hunting lodge. It was a great transformation in fairness to him, and the garden was reconstructed as well and it now features the Escalier des Ambassadeurs.
The Grand Apartments
The addition of his envelope gave another room for the king and the queen to have new flat, also known as chateau neuf. These flat occupy the chateau neuf of the palace and the design followed the Italian Baroque architectural style. The placement of the flat starting from the ground floor to the next floor level is a style borrowed from the 17th-century palazzo design of Italy.
During the 1660’s
After completing his works on Vaux-le- Vicomte, Louis Le Vau went back to central Paris to start another project. He was particularly assigned to redesign the Galerie d’Apollon. He did this alongside Charles Le Brun who was increasingly becoming popular at the time as well. The architects finished the restoration of the Galerie by 1665 and moving forward, Le Vaux together with Perrault redesigned the Louvre Palace’s east façade.
He was also commissioned to work on the new building of College des Quatre Nations in 1661. He would have finished this and the end-result by 1674 featured a pediment façade emphasized with a large cupola on the background. The cupola is adjacent to the two quadrants near the pavilions that are facing the River Seine, to give some perspective. This assignment shared some resemblance to the designs of Bernini in Rome. Then, he would have seen the works of those Italian architectures through the royal collection of the King.
The Palace of Versailles is considered to be Le Vau’s last major work before his death. Some of his contemporaries, he gained a princely sum of fortune out of his works for the king. He died a rich and highly influential architect in Paris on October 12, 1670.