11204

A WATERCOLOR DEPICTING THE FIRST AERIAL HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHT MADE BY THE MONTGOLFIER BROTHERS ATTRIBUTED TO CLAUDE-LOUIS DESRAIS

French. Circa 1784.

Measurements

Research
Watercolor and pencil on paper.

Marks:
An inscribed caption reads:

Vue du Jardin de la Manufacture Royale de Papiers peints de M. Reveillon,

Dans le quel on été faites les premieres experiences de la Machine Aerostatique inventée par M. M. Etienne & Joseph Montgolfier frères

Cette machine avoir 57 pieds de hauteur et 41 de diamètre. Le première expérience publique enfin faite à Versailles, en présence de leurs Majestés et de la famille Royale le 19.7.1783 par M. Etienne Montgolfier, abandonnée à elle-même en sa Galerie.

La seconde fut faite au château de la Muette, le 21 Novembre suivant. L’arëostat avoit 70 pieds de hauteur, 46 de diamètre, et une Gallerie dans la quelle montraient M. D’Arlandes. M. Pilatre de Roxier pour diriger le feu.

C’est le 1er voyage aërien qui au été fait .

Provenance:
Collection of Marius Paulme
Collection of Paul Tissandier
William A.M. Burden, Jr.

Exhibited:
Exposition Rétrospective de la Ville de Paris, Paris Exposition Universelle 1900

Published:
LaVaulx, Henry C, Charles Dollfus, and Paul Tissandier. L’ae éronautique Des Origines A À 1922. Paris: Floury, 1922. No. 6.

This watercolor depicts the first test flight of the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier’s hot air balloon on the grounds of the Réveillon wallpaper manufactory at Foile Titon on September 12, 1783.

The Montgolfiers came from a well-established family of paper manufacturers near Annonay in southern France, a trade that proved useful in developing their experiments with hot air. It was Joseph who had first become interested in contemporary discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere and he later enlisted his brother when constructing small hot air balloons using bags made of paper. Their first large-scale test took place in their hometown on June 4th, 1783 during which they launched a balloon made of silk and lined with paper, under which a basket of straw and wool was burned; the balloon rose to a height of some 3,000 feet and drifted approximately one and half miles.

Word of their accomplishment spread and before long they were traveling to Paris where they planned a demonstration for the king. For this feat, the brothers collaborated with another paper manufacturer, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, who had established his wallpaper manufactory in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, “where the paper staining and luxury furnishing industries were concentrated.”1 With Réveillon’s help, the Montgolfiers produced a 70-foot tall pear-shaped envelope (the term for bag that contains the hot air). It was made of sky blue and gold taffeta covered with an alum varnish and decorated by foliate garlands and fleur de lys, the twelve signs of the zodiac, sun masks (symbolizing the king), lion masks holding tasseled swags, and eagles supporting festoons. The testing for the royal demonstration took place on September 12th in the garden of Réveillon’s factory, the Foile Titon, and according to the caption of the watercolor it is this first aerial test flight that is depicted.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.