Despite its small scale, Nadar meant this carte-de-visite self-portrait to promote his extremely costly ballooning ventures. He hoped that circulation of these images of him seemingly rising into the sky in the gondola of a balloon might attract more paying spectators to the balloon ascensions he staged. Since cartes-de-visite sold for low prices, their sale alone would not have produced enough income to defray aeronautical expenses. Instead, they were likely given away as publicity.
These photographs were a mixture of self-aggrandizement and profit-seeking and, at least to a modern eye, also humorous for their incongruities. The woven basket in which Nadar posed was probably a laundry hamper suspended on ropes in the studio--too small to carry a man comfortably for any distance, particularly kneeling, as the five-foot-ten Nadar must be doing. To give a modest illusion that he was flying, he posed his pretend balloon against a painted backdrop of clouds. He may have chosen dandyish clothes in order to imply that ballooning was a safe, even gentlemanly enterprise, in which money could be judiciously invested. His binoculars advertise the view to be had from on high, and the anchor adds a note of authenticity.