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‘Balloon Mania’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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1. View of the focus exhibition ‘Balloon Mania’, gallery 556 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
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6/06/24 - Acquisition - New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art - For the first time, the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is exhibiting a ‘case study’, a focus exhibition, whose aim is to present objects from the permanent collections and new acquisitions around a theme that changes every two months [1]. The exhibition is entitled ‘Balloon Mania’ and was inspired by the purchase from the young Parisian dealer Damien Forest of an enamelled plate (ill. 2 and 3) made in 1889 for the Paris Universal Exhibition by Joséphine Arthurine Blot in homage to an aerostatic pioneer and hero of the Franco-Prussian War, Gaston Tissandier (1843-1899). A display case (ill. 1) brings together a number of items illustrating the enthusiasm for aerostatic experimentation in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Many objects were decorated with balloon motifs or scenes. Watches, tea caddies, handles, bindings and medals all use different techniques to depict famous episodes in the conquest of the skies, such as the ascent over the Tuileries Gardens in 1783 by Alexandre César Charles and Marie Noël Robert, or the first successful flight over the English Channel from Dover to Calais in 1785 by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Dr John Jeffries. One letter, dated 15 December 1870 and written by an English citizen confined to Paris during the Prussian blockade, bears the words ‘par ballon monté’ (‘by mounted balloon’), indicating a very specific method of delivering mail in wartime.


2. Joséphine Arthurine Blot (1842-1894)
The Céleste Coming out of Paris under Siege on 30 September 1870
Enamel on copper, paillon and gold - D. 16.5 cm
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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