Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Studying perspective at Vaux-le-Vicomte

People had told me the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte is a special place, and they were right.

It's now been about 2 weeks, but June 15 and 16 I had the amazing opportunity to do a series of study sketches at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte south of Paris.  I had intended to stay only the day and sketch, but in the afternoon I had the incredible opportunity to meet with M. Alexandre De Vogüé whose family still owns, lives at, and operates the château.  Very down-to-earth and welcoming, he kindly invited me to stay that Saturday night, even providing a new toothbrush and toothpaste (doesn't get any more gracious than that), so that I could witness two amazing events at the château.

I spent most of that day sketching, starting with conquering my fear of heights by standing on the windblown small balcony atop the château's dome.  It provided a great view of the gardens and I had been challenged by my Gabriel Prize advisor to sketch from up there, so I did!  I then sketched a series of drawings walking through the gardens (which would become the studies for one of my final Gabriel Prize pieces), peeking into the design mind of Le Nôtre himself and discovering firsthand the use of perspective and visual tricks in his designs.

Vaux is lovely. It is the first place the trio of Le Nôtre, Le Brun, and Le Vau all worked together in the 1600's (Louis XIV apparently liked the place so much, he imprisoned owner Nicolas Fouquet and whisked the 3 designers away to work on Versailles.) 

Saturday evening, the entire garden and château are lined with candles at dusk, followed by a show of fireworks, much as the garden was viewed during Louis XIV's day. It was really amazingly elegant and spectacular. 

The next day was an annual event, the Journée Grand Siecle, a much anticipated day where people arrive in period clothing (many carrying elaborate picnics), on horses and carriages. No detail was left out--make up, hair, shoes--the works! A squad of Musketeers dueled each other while music events and theatrical plays were sprinkled throughout the grounds.  And it was THE hot and sunny day I had waited 4 weeks for!

I must say, the people in period clothing actually did fit in better than the rest of us in our jeans.  It was an amazing insight, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the château in these ways.

Vaux from atop the Château
Vaux gardens from the Château platform
View from the Miroir Carré
View of the Grand Canal is revealed
View looking back to the Château in the distance

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