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We celebrated in 2013 the 400e anniversary of the birth of André Le Nôtre, the gardener of Louis XIV.
The opportunity to look back on a prolific career whose works continue to delight walkers today.
Grandson and son of the king's gardeners, young André learned his trade from his father, Pierre Le Nôtre, in the Tuileries garden. He succeeded him in 1643, after having studied with the painter Simon Vouet, the sculptor Louis Lerambert and the architect François Mansart, masters who taught him drawing, perspective, architecture, but also ... art to seduce the king and to make a place for himself at court.
Le Nôtre, a prolific career
Having become a "landscape architect", André Le Nôtre composed the gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte for Nicolas Fouquet, in collaboration with the architect Louis Le Vau and the decorator Charles Le Brun. In 1661, he restored the gardens of Versailles for Louis XIV, gardens which would quickly become the reference in the field in all the courts of Europe.
Le Nôtre also updates the gardens of the Château de Fontainebleau, composes those of the Châteaux de Maisons and Chantilly. It is the latter, with their perspective off-center in relation to the castle (the axis is given by the statue of the Constable), who would have been his favorites.
Le Nôtre style
Le Nôtre is part of the classic tradition of French gardens. Inspired by creations from northern Italy, but on a much larger scale, these are linear gardens, where beds of vegetation enclosed by clipped box hedges are surrounded by angled paths. Statues, fountains, plantations punctuate this harmony, where perspective reigns supreme.
The water features are numerous and important: vast pools placed symmetrically on each side of the alleys, sculpted fountains, wide canals ... In Versailles, the impressive Grand Canal (1,670 meters long) hosted famous nautical festivals in summer. In winter, it would turn into a giant ice rink ...
Credit for visuals: © Château de Vaux le Vicomte, © Château de Versailles / C.Milet