11203

ENGRAVING OF CAPTAIN VINCENTE LUNARDI IN HIS BALLOON WITH GEORGE BIGGIN AND LETITIA ANN SAGE

Continental. Late Eighteenth Century.

Measurements

Research
Engraved image depicting three passengers in a hot air balloon.

Marks:
See text for inscription.

Provenance:
William A.M. Burden Estate

This late eighteenth century engraving depicts a trio of passengers aboard an “aerostatic machine” invented by the pioneering Italian balloonist Vincenzo Lunardi (1754-1806), known as “The Daredevil Aeronaut.”

Lunardi came from a family of minor nobility, and after travelling in France as a young man he returned home to Italy and entered diplomatic service as the secretary to Prince Caramancio, the Neapolitan Ambassador to England. While in Britain, Lunardi’s interest in science and innovation developed, fueled by the growing ballooning craze across Europe, and would continue throughout his life. He was the first person to demonstrate balloon flight in England, and made several subsequent flights in his lifetime in Great Britain, as well as in Spain, Italy and Portugal. Lunardi is also credited with developing what he called an “aquatic machine,” essentially a one-person lifeboat with steering oar to prevent shipwreck, and balloon-wreck, victims from drowning.

English interest had been piqued by the succession of eighteenth century balloon flights made in France, and later Scotland, however, skepticism among its countrymen remained. Lunardi took this opportunity to plan the first ascent on English soil along with his friend George Biggin, a wealthy young student with a passion for literary and scientific pursuits. Biggin provided the financial backing, and it was the intention that both men would participate in the flight in a hydrogen-powered balloon.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.