161 hectares of fertile soil, planned and designed under rigorous principles are a joy to behold. The domain de Sceaux, in Hauts-de-Seine , is beyond that tour de force, an emblematic illustration of how the new scientific advances and philosophical principles of the early 17 century inspired garden designers to offer a lesson on taming the soil. Galileo Galilei, was no stranger to Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun or André Le Nôtre, the main influences on French garden. Their works translated the astronomical observations of Galilei into perfectly harmonious spaces, a small cosmology of enchantment and grace.
What surprises me in this park is not just the sheer ambition of its size but the perfect symmetry of its simple components. This is not a botanist’s environment designed to place new or foreign species in its midst. It is a distribution of space framed by an arboreal architecture using bodies of water as the backbone. The resulting impression is one of elevated emotions. There is an overwhelming murmur of blissful serenity, much similar to the contemplation of a classic work of art in the Louvre or el Prado galleries. Yet, this sensation is not triggered by the comfort of an intimate space but by its opposite, a vast panorama as far as the eye can reach.
The moment of communion with docile nature that the park offers, wrapped in a 400 year-old language, is a reminder that beauty has no age. The history of the park, the ambitions of the successive owners, such as Colbert, the minister of Louis XIV, who sponsored the present design, are of lesser importance against the final realization of this masterpiece. The current chateau, an uninspired example of Louis XIII style, in vogue in the late 19 century, sits awkwardly in this magnificent space, divorced from its surroundings. Gladly, the spirit of André Le Nôtre suffuses this ocean of greenery. Unlike his best-known works, the parks of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte, fully integrated with the buildings, the execution here is more austere, the outcome magnificently dramatic. While the parks in those two monumental sites extend as limbs and accessories to the wonders of the architecture, here the divorce is complete. Le Nôtre himself was partial to his own work at Chantilly and Sceaux. The park is a sheer triumph, a lesson on incandescent questions: beauty, eternity and nature. Years of experience do not offer the wise man what a silent visit to the park promises and delivers.