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

Interior view

Galerie d'Hercule, Hôtel Lambert, Paris

One of the most significant of the city palaces in the first half of the seventeenth century in Paris is the Hôtel Lambert on the Île St-Louis. Le Vau used a completely new layout here which reflected the narrowness of the site: instead of siting the garden along the portal-courtyard-accommodation axis, he moved it to the right, close to the 'cour-d'honneur'. The latter, with cut-off corners, opens onto a monumental staircase which, flanked by oval hallways, leads into the gallery which is laid out sideways and is interposed between the garden and open ground.

Much of the decoration of the interior survived until the fire in 2013 which destroyed or damaged some of it. The most striking is the Gallery of Hercules (heavily damaged in the fire), one of the finest rooms of the period. The walls are decorated with a series of stucco reliefs, bronze and gold in colour, by Gerard van Opstal, representing the Labours of Hercules, to whom the room is dedicated. On the side opposite the windows these reliefs alternate with landscapes by Rousseau. The ceiling was painted by Le Brun, who continued the story of the hero in a huge decoration which was in its time the most ambitious piece of Baroque illusionism to be executed in France. Le Vau was presumably the controlling mind behind this magnificent scheme, and it shows his qualities at their best.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.