Rare Hot Air Balloon Colored Engraving 1785 by Louis Watteau “La Quatorzieme Experience Aerostatique de M. Blanchard, accompagné du Chevalier Lepinard faite à Lille en Flandre, le 26 août 1785.” In English, the title is “The Fourteenth Aerostatics Experience of M. Blanchard, accompanied by the Chevalier Lepinard, made at Lille in Flanders, August 26th, 1785”. It was painted by Louis Watteau (1731 - 1798) and engraved by Helman. Both studied at the same academy or art school in Lille. The engraving shows the hot air balloon flight of Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a pioneer in balloon flight. An aerostat is an aircraft, like a balloon or dirigible, which gets lift from the buoyancy of the air surrounding it, rather than from aerodynamic motion. On August 26, 1785, Blanchard made his fourteenth air voyage to Lille, accompanied by the Chevalier de Lépinard, an amateur who risked his life with Blanchard. Five days after departing, the two aeronauts returned to Lille to the sound of artillery and marching bands. Helman’s engraving records the event. In the center, troops from the garrison at Lille gather in the area used to launch the balloon. In the foreground, there are riders, large crowds, and more soldiers. “This print is one of the most beautiful made on balloons. It is very rare.” Dictionnaire des Estampes & Livres Illustrés sur les Ballons & Machines Volantes, des débuts jusques vers 1880, avec leurs prix. (Dictionary of Prints And Illustrated Books on Balloons And Flying Machines, from the Beginnings until about 1880, with Their Prices) by J E Darmon, 1929, page 70. The first unmanned hot air balloons were used in China around 200 A.D. They basically were airborne lanterns used for military signaling. In the late 1700’s, hot air balloons were successfully flown by the French. The first passengers on a balloon flight were a sheep, a duck, and a rooster, and the first untethered hot air balloon flight with humans took place in Paris on November 21, 1783, with Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes at the helm. Blanchard made his first successful balloon flight in Paris on March 2, 1784, in a hydrogen gas balloon, and he piloted the first hot-air balloon flown in the Americas in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793. So hot air balloons carried human beings aloft for the first time just after the Revolutionary War ended. This was the first generation of aeronauts, and the beginning of the air age. Of course most citizens in Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon flight, so publishing houses flooded the market with scores of single-sheet printed images. This is one of those images - one of the earliest and rarest of hot air balloon flight images ever recorded. The Smithsonian’s NASA museum in Washington D.C. has a copy of the same engraving in its Birth of Flight collection. The print is framed and under glass. The print measures 13 1/2” X 19 1/2” (sight size) and the frame measures 16 1/2” X 22 1/2”.