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André Le Nôtre (12 March 161315 September 1700) was a French landscape architect and the principal gardener of King Louis XIV of France. Most notably, he was responsible for the design and construction of the park of the Palace of Versaillesmarker, and his work represents the height of the French formal garden style, or jardin à la française.

Prior to working on Versailles, Le Nôtre collaborated with Louis Le Vau and Charles Le Brun on the park at Vaux-le-Vicomtemarker. His other works include the design of gardens and parks at Chantillymarker, Fontainebleaumarker, Saint-Cloudmarker, and Saint-Germainmarker. His contribution to planning was also significant: at the Tuileriesmarker he extended the westward vista, which would later become the avenue of the Champs-Élyséesmarker and comprise the Axe historique.


Early life

André Le Nôtre was born into a family of gardeners. Pierre Le Nôtre, who was in charge of the gardens of the Palais des Tuileriesmarker, Paris, in 1572, may have been his grandfather. André's father Jean Le Nôtre was also responsible for sections of the Tuileries gardens, initially under Claude Mollet, and later as head gardener, during the reign of Louis XIII. André was born on 12 March 1613, and was baptised at the Église Saint-Rochmarker. His godfather at the ceremony was an administrator of the royal gardens, and his godmother was the wife of Claude Mollet.

The family lived in a house within the Tuilieries, and André thus grew up surrounded by gardening, and quickly acquired both practical and theoretical knowledge. The location also allowed him to study in the nearby Palais du Louvremarker, part of which was then used as an academy of the arts. He learned mathematics, painting and architecture, and entered the atelier of Simon Vouet, painter to Louis XIII, where he met and befriended the painter Charles Le Brun. He learned classical art and perspective, and studied for several years under the architect François Mansart, a friend of Le Brun.

Gardens of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte


In 1635 Le Nôtre was named the principal gardener of the king's brother Gaston, duc d'Orléans. On 26 June 1637, Le Nôtre was appointed head gardener at the Tuileries, taking over his father's position. He had primary responsibiity for the areas of the garden closest to the palace, including the orangery built by Simon Bouchard. In 1643 he was appointed "draughtsman of plants and terraces" for Anne of Austria, the queen mother, and from 1645 to 1646 he worked on the modernisation of the gardens of the Château de Fontainebleaumarker.

He was later put in charge of all the royal gardens of France, and in 1657 he was further appointed Controller-General of the Royal Buildings. There are few direct references to Le Nôtre in the royal accounts, and Le Nôtre himself seldom wrote down his ideas or approach to gardening. He expressed himself purely through his gardens. He became a trusted advisor to Louis XIV, and in 1675 he was ennobled by the King. He and Le Brun even accompanied the court at the siege of Cambraimarker in 1677.

In 1640 he married Françoise Langlois. They had three children, although none survived to adulthood.


André Le Nôtre's first major garden design was undertaken for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV's Superintendent of Finances. Fouquet began work on the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomtemarker in 1657, employing the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun, and Le Nôtre. The three designers worked in partnership, with Le Nôtre laying out a grand, symmetrical arrangement of parterres, pools, and gravel walks. Le Vau and Le Nôtre exploited the changing levels across the site, so that the canal is invisible from the house, and employed forced perspective to make the grotto appear closer than it really is. The gardens were complete by 1661, when Fouquet held a grand entertainment for the king. But only three weeks later, on 10 September 1661, Fouquet was arrested for embezzling state funds, and his artists and craftsmen were taken into the king's service.


Plan view of the gardens of Versailles
From 1661, Le Nôtre was woking for Louis XIV to build and enhance the garden and parksmarker of the Château de Versaillesmarker. Louis extended the existing hunting lodge, eventually making it his primary residence and seat of power. Le Nôtre also laid out the radiating city plan of Versailles, which included the largest avenue yet seen in Europe, the Avenue de Paris.

Other gardens

In 1661, Le Nôtre was also working on the gardens at Fontainebleau, and the following year he provided designs for Greenwich Parkmarker in London, for Charles II of England. In 1663 he was engaged at Saint-Germainmarker and Saint-Cloudmarker, residence of Philippe d'Orléans, where he would oversee works for may years. Also from 1663, Le Nôtre was engaged at Château de Chantillymarker, property of the Prince de Condé, where he worked with his nephew Pierre Desgots until the 1680s. From 1664 he was rebuilding the gardens of the Tuileries, at the behest of Colbert, Louis's chief minister, who still hoped the king would remain in Paris. In 1667 Le Nôtre extended the main axis of the gardens westward, creating the avenue which would become the Champs-Elyséesmarker. Colbert commissioned Le Nôtre in 1670, to alter the gardens of his own château at Sceauxmarker, which was ongoing until 1683.

In 1670 Le Nôtre conceived a project for the Castello di Racconigimarker in Italy, and between 1674 and 1698 he remodelled the gardens of Venaria Realemarker, near Turinmarker. In 1679, he visited Italy. Between 1679 and 1691, he was involved in the planning of the gardens of Château de Meudonmarker for Louvois, another of Louis's ministers. His last royal work was his involvement in the planning of the Château de Marlymarker in 1692.

In 1693, Le Nôtre retired, offering his belles œuvres to the King, although he still provided advice, writing to Germany with instructions for the Charlottenburg Palacemarker and château de Cassel, and to William III of England with plans for Windsor Castlemarker, during the 1690s. Le Nôtre died in Paris in September 1700, at the age of 87. His tomb is in the Église Saint-Roch in Paris.

List of principal gardens by Le Nôtre

17th-century engraving of the gardens of Chantilly

See also


Further reading

  • Thompson, Ian. The Sun King's Garden: Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre And the Creation of the Gardens of Versailles. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 1582346313).

External links

  • André Le Nôtre, website of the Ministry of Culture and of Communication (in French and English)
  • André Le Nôtre, biography from, landscape architecture and garden guide

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