[Félix Nadar in Gondola of Balloon]

Object Details


[Félix Nadar in Gondola of Balloon]


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




about 1863


Albumen silver


8.8 x 5.6 cm (3 7/16 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, although Nadar used the back of this one to write a note urging his assistants to make a certain Madame Grandet at home in the studio.

These photographs were a mixture of self-aggrandizement and profitseeking 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.

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

Baldwin, Gordon, and Judith Keller. Nadar Warhol: Paris New York: Photography and Fame. Introduction by Richard Brilliant. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999) p. 49.