Louis Le Vau


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French Baroque architect. With a team of decorators, sculptors, gardeners, and painters he was largely responsible for creating the Louis Quatorze style at the great palace of Versailles from 1667. His earliest buildings were Parisian hôtels particuliers, notably the fine Hôtel Lambert on the Île-St-Louis (1639–44), where he created a formal staircase leading to a landing flanked by an octagonal vestibule on one side, and, on the other, an elliptical vestibule leading to a long gallery terminating in a bowwindow affording views over the Seine. In 1656 he began Vaux-le-Vicomte, a great château for Nicolas Fouquet (1615–80), with interiors decorated by Charles Lebrun (1619–90) and others. It incorporated a grand vestibule and stair, with a domed saloon behind partly projecting on the garden-front, the whole set in formal gardens designed by le Nôtre. Le Vau and Lebrun rebuilt the Galerie d'Apollon in the Louvre, Paris (1661–4), and, with Perrault, designed the celebrated east front of the Louvre (1665–74—a harbinger of C18 Classicism) so admired by Wren and others. At the Collège des Quatre Nations, Paris (1661–74—now the Institut de France), with a pedimented front (behind which rises a tall cupola) flanked by two quadrants terminating in pavilions facing the Seine (so the composition has a concave façade contained by the wings), Le Vau demonstrated a strong affinity with Italian Baroque, and possible influences from Bernini and Borromini. The front and pavilions are graced by Giant Orders, and the quadrants by subservient superimposed Orders. His most ambitious work, however, was at Versailles, where he remodelled and expanded the château. Le Vau's new garden-front can still be seen, although considerably altered and extended by Hardouin-Mansart. At Versailles and the Collège des Quatre Nations he was assisted by François d' Orbay, who probably contributed to the overall design.

Architectura, vi/1 (1976), 36–46;Ballon (1999);Blunt (1982);Bordier (1998);GdBA lxiv (1964), 285–96, 347–62, cii (1983), 193–207;Hautecœur (1948);Laprade (1960);Placzek (ed.) (1982);Jane Turner (1982);D. Watkin (1986)

Subjects: Architecture.

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