The Villagers of Gonesse Alarmed by the Fall of J.-A.-C. Charles's Balloon

Anonymous, German, 18th century German

Not on view

This print commemorates the flight and landing, on August 27, 1783, of the first hydrogen balloon. Launched in France by Jacques-Alexandre-César Charles, the device carried no passengers and traveled ten miles from the Champs de Mars, in Paris, to the village of Gonesse. There, the peasants, thinking it a monster, attacked it and dragged it across the countryside. Soon afterwards, a proclamation was issued, explaining that a balloon: "so far from being a terrifying phenomenon, it is only a machine…which is quite harmless and which, it is to be presumed, will some day prove of benefit to science." This image is a "vue d'optique," supposed to be looked at through a convex lens and mirrored device that strengthened the illusion of depth and reversed the image. It demonstrates the widespread fascination with early ballooning but wrongly credits the Montgolfier brothers as the inventors.

No image available

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.