This pair of miniatures illustrates two famous French balloon flights in 1784, a time of fevered experimentation in balloon flight across Europe and America. The left image illustrates the flight of Guyton de Moreau on June 12, 1784 in a balloon flown under the banner Academie de Dijon, an arts and sciences university where Moreau was vice-chancellor. During this flight, an attempt was made to steer the balloon manually with oars and a rudder that ultimately proved unsuccessful.
The right image illustrates the flight of Leonard Alban and Matthieu Vallet, two chemists who constructed their balloon, L’aerostat de Javel in October, 1784. As chemists, they produced a hydrogen gas system that enabled them to convert free-flying balloons into propeller driven dirigibles, a giant leap in balloon technology.
The highly detailed depictions of these events illustrate the talent of this unknown artist. He or she has caught the ballooning enthusiasm of the French citizenry. The images survive in remarkably strong color. Minor areas of paint loss; the shagreen case has expected wear from age and use. The first four images below show the paintings in their original frames under the original lightly green tinted glass. The following two images show the paintings before they were returned to the frames and more truly depict the vivid colors. We chose to leave the paintings as originally framed to preserve the choice of glass for the future owner.
Provenance: Estate of Peggy and David Rockefeller