A ballooning scene on a fan, c 1783.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A ballooning scene painted onto a silk fan made with ivory carved sticks. The central panel shows a Charles and Robert balloon floating over a crowd of people. Jacques Charles, a French profesor of physics, launched the first free ascent of an unmanned hydrogen-filled balloon on 27th August, 1783. Later, he and Noel Robert became the first men to be carried aloft in a hydrogen balloon (in free flight) on 1st December, 1783. Public balloon ascents began to be held in pleasure gardens after the first succesful balloon trips in Paris during 1783. These events attracted huge crowds and led to an explosion of ballooniana, or balloon art, expresed in paintings, prints and decorated ceramics as well as many other forms.