12. LANDSCAPE DESIGN OF ANDRE LE NOTRE.
Claude Mollet (*****) and his son Andre’ Mollet (*****)
Claude Mollet was a garden designer in France during the 16th and 17th centuries. He was responsible for garden designs at Fontainebleau, Montceaux, and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, as the gardener to Henri IV. Claude Mollet is primarily known as a garden theorist and writer. His book Theatre des Plans et Jardinages (published about landscape designs of the late 16th century and early 17th century.) was a main source to practitioners making gardens in France.
Andre’ Mollet (died around 1665) is Claudes best known son, and again of particular interest is his writing. His book Le Jardin de Plaisir (published 1651) establishes the framework of classic French garden design.
In his short text he describes the design of the garden based on a main axis.
1. The royal house must be sited to best advantage which includes: at a right angle to the front, a large avenue lined with elm or lime trees;
2. Facing the rear of the house are parterres en broderie.
Parterre de broderie – flowering plant-like designs of box against a background of colored earth. Sometimes with bands of turf.
Parterres en broderie are near enough to the house to be seen from the windows.
3. Parterres or compartments of turf.
parterre – a flower garden laid out in an ornamental manner, particularly the flat area adjoining the house.
4. Bosquets, allees and palisades in their proper place.
bosquet – an ornamental grove thicket or shrubbery pierced by walks.
allee – sanded or tree lined walks forming the framework of the garden.
palissade – a hedge of any height clipped into a smooth wall
Some other definitions:
Topiary – The art of shaping trees and shrubs by clipping and training
Patte d’oie – a place where three, four, or five straight allees or avenues meet at acute angles forming the characteristic goose foot shape
Andre Le Notre (1613-1700) & King Louis XIV (1638-1715) (king of France 1643-1715)
Vaux le Vicomte
A trio of designers was responsible for Vaux le Vicomte:
The landscape architect, Andre Le Notre (1613-1700)
The architect, Louis Le Vau (1612-1670)
The artist, Charles Le Brun (1619-1690)
The site of Vaux le Vicomte was a rough uneven landscape in character – with a river valley, and the river Anqueil, running through it. A village (of Vaux le Vicomte) and two hamlets (Jumeau and Maison Rouge) were located on the site of the designed landscape of Vaux le Vicomte and ultimately were removed. Nicholas Fouquet inherited the property from his father. At the time of the design and construction of Vaux, Nicholas Fouquet was the minister of finance for Louis XIV.
The organization of the landscape – the building, the garden, and the art – roughly conform to the model described by Andre’ Mollet, ordered symmetrically around a central axis, as a series of regular rectilinear compartments with allee’s and a hierarchy of parts – the parterre de broderie, the parterre (de gazon), and the bosquet.
The design for Vaux le Vicomte differed from Mollets model in 3 primary ways. First is the emphasis on the main axis, second is the inclusion of secondary axes at right angles to the main axis, and third and perhaps most importantly the use of optical or perspective spatial knowledge.
1. At Vaux le Vicomte the main axis was emphasized by the extension of the space beyond the actual property of the garden. The view down the main axis from the house proceeds the length of the garden to a large statue of Hercules and beyond to suggest infinity.
2. Secondary axes are marked by features along the main axis. The most important secondary axis is the Grille d’Eau and it is marked by a large flight of stairs. The axis of the Grille d’Eau leads to the gate of the potager (kitchen garden).
Another cross axis is formed by a monumental canal nearly a kilometer long, formed from the river Anqueil as a wide architectural element.
3. The optical tricks or perspective plays on space are particularly notable at Vaux le Vicomte. A view from the platform of the house seems to reveal the garden in its entirety, and only by traveling through the grounds does one find the reality. The series of terraces are so well integrated that the break from one to the next is imperceptible and unpredictable. In fact, from the house the canal is not seen and the vista seems to suggest a progression straight toward the statue of Hercules.
Another use of perspective and proportion relates to the water in the garden. The sizes of the water basins are such that they give the ‘right’ effect when seen from the house, that is they catch a reflection of light for the best effect.
The large size of the cascades, steps and ramps also reflect the proportional effect achieved through the play on perspective. From the house the cascades, steps, and ramps can be understood because of their scale and proportion.
Vaux le Vicomte is a pure expression of the landscape as art with an intended demonstration of wealth and power.
Upon completion of the landscape design at Vaux le Vicomte, Nicholas Fouquet organized a party for the court including King Louis XIV. On the 17th of August 1661, Fouquet displayed his new creation to the court with an elaborate program of entertainment. On the 5th of September, Fouquet was arrested and three years later sent to prison for the remainder of his life.
The unlawful use of public funds for personal advantage was not uncommon practice for people of high position. Fouquet had gone a step too far in his residence at Vaux le Vicomte.
Shortly after Fouquets arrest, Louis XIV decided to expand on Louis XIII’s chateau and park at Versailles. Inspiration driven by his visits to Vaux le Vicomte prompted Louis XIV to build his own place for entertainment, and later Louis had the chateau enlarged to a palace, making Versailles the new seat of government.
In the beginning the site of Versailles was marshy land prone to water accumulation in large amounts. Ultimately the designed landscape at Versailles became the focus of a new town.
The first extensive work at Versailles was done between 1661 and 1664. Louis XIV employed the same trio of designers as Fouquet had at Vaux le Vicomte – Andre Le Notre, Louis Le Vau, and Charles Le Brun.
A plan of Versailles in 1664 suggests that the main vista at that time was across the orangerie to a hexagonal shaped lake (site of the present day Piece d’Eau des Suisses), the westerly or main axis as it is understood today, down the grand canal, was narrow, ending in a Bassin (des Cygnes, later Apollo) that had existed from the time of Louis XIII.
Le Notres work at this time is beginning to establish interest on the axis to the bassin. His design for monumental ramps in the shape of a horseshoe terrace began to articulate the dominance of the axis toward the future canal.
In 1668, the grand canal was begun as an extension to the west and the setting sun.
The Bassin des Cygnes was transformed into the Bassin d’Apollon as symbolic representation as the rising sun – presenting the theme of the “sun”.
Between 1679 and 1682, the Bassin de Neptune was completed, extending the design by Le Notre in 1664. The revision made room to accept a large body of water.
The water spectacles at Versailles were (and still are) some of the most spectacular displays of any type, and Louis took a great deal of pride in them.
The quantity and pressure of water required at Versailles was constantly a problem. Elevation change was minimal between the source of water and the fountains, making pumps and other means of moving water a requirement, gravity would not help.
An early source of water was a series of four reservoirs which were filled by raising water with pumps and windmills from a pond. As more fountains were designed, water was needed to show them. Cost was no issue and many schemes were carried out including aqueducts and huge machines. The Machine de Marly was a collection of (14) waterwheels, and (221) pumps carrying water from the Seine up 162 meters and then to reservoirs, later to be used for fountain displays.
It was never possible for all of the fountains at Versailles to play at the same time. Boys with whistles would prompt someone to control which fountains were playing. As the king or other important visitors progressed through the garden, the fountain displays would continue until they were out of site.
The property at Sceaux was owned by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of finance who replaced Nicholas Fouquet ( the notorious owner of Vaux Le Vicomte). When he purchased the property in 1670 there was an existing chateau on the grounds.
Colbert had the chateau enlarged and hired Andre Le Notre to make a design for the park. The design contains the common avenue approach to the chateau, and two primary axes that organize the remainder of the park.
The two axes meet at a right angle at the chateau.
The first (earliest) axis was oriented parallel to the chateau and dropped down a steep slope from the terrace of the chateau, to an octagon shaped pool. On the slope Le Notre created an elaborate cascade down to the pool.
The second primary axis was on the main axis of the house and approach avenue. It extended to the west down into a valley and then up again.
Also at the time of the existence of the second axis it seems that the first axis had a tapis vert added to it as an extension of the cascades and octagonal pool (tapis vert – green cloth or stretch of grass usually rectangular in shape). In the tapis vert the use of forced perspective implied an extended vista.
The canal was built during the lifetime of Colberts son.