[Felix Nadar in the Gondola of a Balloon]

Object Details

Title:

[Felix Nadar in the Gondola of a Balloon]

Artist/Maker(s):

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820 - 1910)

Culture:

French

Date:

about 1863

Medium:

Albumen silver

Dimensions:

7.8 x 5.6 cm (3 1/16 x 2 3/16 in.)

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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.

Exhibitions
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
Nadar/Warhol: Paris/New York (July 20, 1999 to May 28, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 20 to October 10, 1999
  • The Andy Warhol Museum, (Pittsburgh), November 6, 1999 to January 30, 2000
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art, (Baltimore), March 12 to May 28, 2000
Images of the Artist (November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012