LE VAU, Louis
(b. 1612, Paris, d. 1670, Paris)


French architect. He was the son and pupil of the stone mason Louis Le Vau (d. 1661). He began his career in the 1630s, designing row houses and "hôtels particuliers" on the Ile Saint-Louis, Paris. He was influenced by Italian architecture, including the designs of Bernini and Pietro da Cortona).

In 1654 he designed new wings and a colonnade for the Louvre; in the same year he was appointed first architect to King Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715). In 1656, he began his architectural masterpiece, the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, owned by France's wealthy finance minister Nicolas Fouquet (1615-80).

In 1661, in Paris, Le Vau and Le Brun began the redesign of the Galerie d'Apollon in the Louvre, after which, in 1665, Le Vau collaborated with Perrault to design the famous east façade of the Louvre (1665-74) in a style which anticipated 18th century Neoclassical architecture.

At the same time, Le Vau (assisted by François d'Orbay) was involved in the design of the College des Quatre Nations, Paris (1661-74) now the Institut de France. By employing a pedimented façade (with a tall cupola behind) flanked by two quadrants ending in pavilions facing the River Seine (thus giving the structure a concave façade bordered by the wings), he showed a strong affinity with Italian Baroque art, and with the work of both Bernini and Francesco Borromini.

From 1667-70, Louis Le Vau, along with Jules Hardouin Mansart, was the main structural architect for phase one of the Palace of Versailles. They were assisted by landscape architect Andre Le Notre, decorator Charles Le Brun, architect Francois d'Orbay, and a huge team of French Baroque artists, including painters, sculptors, gardeners, and other master craftsmen. Le Vau was involved in the renovation of Marble Court (1669) which was the first phase in the transformation of a hunting lodge into a great palace. He also remodeled the garden façade of the building, including the elegant Escalier des Ambassadeurs. In so doing, he helped to initiate the magnificent Louis Quatorze style, combining the glory of ancient Rome with that of 17th century France.

Le Vau held the position of "Conseiller du Roi, intendant ordonnateur général et premier architecte des bâtiments royaux".

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