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"Allarme générale des habitants de Gonesse occasionée par la chûte du ballon aréostatique"
Published by Le Noir (fl. 1775-1820)
Md. Fournisseur des Estampes du Cabinet du Roi, demeurant au Louvre
Etching with hand colouring
24.3 cm high x 31 cm wide (platemark)
Lot 297, Christie's London "Decorative, Sporting and Topographical Prints", 17th May 1988
Antique French, hand-coloured etching illustrating the commotion caused by the landing of the balloon built by Les Frères Robert (the Robert Brothers) (Anne-Jean Robert (1758–1820) and Nicolas-Louis Robert (1760–1820)) and Jacques Alexandre César Charles (1746 –1823). The balloon is laying partially deflated on the ground, surrounded by an alarmed crowd with people attacking it with stones, sticks, pitchforks and other implements. Detailed description of the event in French below the scene. Publication line "Se vend à Paris chez Le Noir Md. Fournisseur des Estampes du Cabinet du Roi, demeurant au Louvre". The text incorrectly identifies the balloon here as that invented by "Mr De Montgolfier" (the Montgolfier Brothers' first public balloon demonstration was differenent and actually took place on 4 June 1783).
The Robert Brothers' balloon was launched on 27 August 1783 at 5 o'clock in the evening from the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris. A crowd of around 300 persons witnessed the release, amongst whom was Benjamin Franklin (the first "American Minister" (U.S. Ambassador to France)). The balloon flew north for 45 minutes and landed about 20 kms away, outside the small village of Gonesse. Here its descent and landing terrified the local peasants, who feared it was some kind of monster. They proceeded to attack it and then dragged it behind a horse, finally tearing the silk to pieces.
For similar see The Metropolitan Museum of Art [62.696.3] Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum Collection [A19930221000] and Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris . A identical plate was published in London by John Wallis with English text beneath (see British Museum [Mm,3.61]).