Gouache on paper in shagreen folding case
Marked: Alban and Vallet Javel 1783 (on right image)
Academie de Dijon 1784 (on left image)
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 and tear from age and use.