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Louis Le Vau
1612-1670

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Louis Le Vau was a French architect, and one of the principal designers of the Palace of Versailles. After designing numerous private houses and mansions, including the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, he began work on Versailles in 1669. Supervising a brilliant array of artisans, he was responsible for the central block and garden façade, notable for its noble classical proportions and overpowering scale. Le Vau's interiors, particularly the Ambassador's Staircase (destroyed 1752), had an architectural grandeur and Baroque ornateness that exceeded any comparable interiors of the time.  

France 1997.  Baroque architecture. Chateau de Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles (begun 1669), created for Louis XIV by Louis Le Vau, André Le Nôtre, and Charles Lebrun, is the single most important French Baroque architectural monument. It is dedicated to the Sun King, and its measured classical forms, vast and complex gardens, and sumptuous interiors glorify the power of the monarchy; it gave rise to imitations commissioned by dozens of other rulers throughout Europe. A similarly grandiose project, also having great restraint and subtlety, was the enlargement (1660s-1670s) of the Louvre by Le Vau, Lebrun, Claude Perrault, and others. 

A royal hunting lodge had existed at Versailles, within easy reach of Paris, in the reign of Louis XIII.  In 1631 work began on the construction of a chateau on the site of the present palace. Louis XIV, who ascended the French throne as a boy in 1643, began building work at Versailles in 1661, with Louis Le Vau as principal architect.  The work was confined largely to the adaptation of the existing chateau, but the new menagerie and orangery formed the first stage of a grand entry court.  A second building phase, beginning in 1668, subsumed the original chateau into an entirely new building, formed around the new Royal Court. Versailles is now a national museum. 

France 1956. Baroque Architecture. Le Grand Trianon, Versailles. France 1954. Baroque Architecture. Forged Iron Gate Entry to Versailles. France 1938. Baroque Architecture. Chateau de Versailles.

France 2001. Baroque Architecture. Gardens of Versailles.


The gardens of Versailles were designed by the landscape architect André le Nôtre during the 17th century.
  • France 2001.  Gardens of Versailles.

A third building campaign, involving over 30,000 labourers and craftsmen, was initiated in 1678 and continued for a decade; in 1682, Louis XIV transferred the seat of power from Paris to Versailles.  The architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart built the enormously long north and south wings.  Not until 1699 was the large chapel seriously begun and it was not consecrated until 1710. (The decoration was completed after the king’s death in 1715.)  The opera house at Versailles was designed by Jacques-Ange Gabriel and built for Louis XV. Under Louis XVI plans were made to extend the palace further and an architectural competition for a new master plan was held in 1783.  The French Revolution, however, intervened. The furnishings of Versailles were sold off and the palace turned into a museum.  The symmetrical plan of the Royal Court was finally realized in 1820 under Louis XVIII. 

In 1784 the Swedish King Gustav III visited France, and the French Court celebrated his visit at Le Petit Trianon. The stamps were issued as a joint issue between France and Sweden in connection with the celebration of the cultural liaison between the two countries.  The painting is made in 1784 by the Swedish painter Niclas Lafrensen the Younger (1737-1807), who is known in France as Nicolas Lavreince, and the title is "Celebration for Gustave III at the Trianon".

France 1994. Baroque Architecture. Le Petit Trianon. Sweden 1994. Baroque Architecture. Le Petit Trianon.

During the 19th and 20th centuries Versailles underwent major restoration work and some of the original contents have been reinstated.  The numerous magnificent interiors include the Hall of Mirrors, where the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War; the Salon of Hercules; and the bedroom of Marie Antoinette.  The gardens and park, focusing on the Grand Canal, contain many monuments, sculptures, and subsidiary buildings, including the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon.  The latter, a favoured residence of Marie Antoinette, dates from 1762-1768. 

In 1979 The Chateau de Versailles and the Park was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.  

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