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Revisiting Le Grand Siècle

On August 17, 1661, Nicolas Fouquet gave an infamous party to end all parties -- and this was in the Baroque excess of the 17th century -- at his new home of Vaux-le-Vicomte, which included the world premiere of Molière's play Les Fâcheux. His intention was nominally to honor Louis XIV, but the sense that the Finance Minister was trying to out-king the king became apparent even to the king. Shortly afterward, Louis XIV had Fouquet arrested and his château seized by the state. He also hired the team that had created Vaux-le-Vicomte -- the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun, and the garden designer André Le Nôtre -- to build his new home at Versailles. Voltaire, always ready with the perfect quip, wrote that "On August 17, at six in the evening Fouquet was the King of France: at two in the morning he was nothing."

For the 346th anniversary of that evening, the château hosted a grand evening for thousands of guests, who came from England, Germany, Italy, the United States. An article by Jean-François Caltot (Vaux-le-Vicomte retrouve son palais des plaisirs, August 19) in Le Monde does not tell much of what happened:

Hundreds of Parisians arrived in filled buses, 400 blue and silver coaches (the colors of the period), 200 actors in costume, a courtyard decked out in finery, and thousands of torches gave witness to the fact that a Grand Siècle festival can still fascinate in our republic.
This is all part of the financial master plan of Jean-Charles de Vogüé, who also supervised the mass-media wedding of French basketball player Tony Parker with the American actress Eva Longoria, on July 7.

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