J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

A Monument to Hot Air

Since some folks are reportedly shopping for holiday gifts today, I’ll just say that I wouldn’t mind receiving this at the end of December.

From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this is a terra cotta model that Clodion (Claude Michel) sculpted in Paris around 1784. He was proposing a large monument to the invention of the balloon. The Met’s webpage offers several more views of the model.

I love the combination of the latest and greatest science of the day with mythological figures. Winged cherubim gather fuel to make the balloon launch, and winged angels trumpet the achievement.

You’d think with all those wings, the cherubs and angels wouldn’t be that impressed by ballooning. “Oh, you can get off the ground now. That’s lovely. Can you decide which direction to go? No? Well, keep working on that. We’ll be over here. Or over here. Or wherever we choose, you see.”


rfuller said...

It's interesting that the artists used baby-like cherubim to surround the newfangled, little-understood invention called the balloon. Benjamin Franklin, while in Paris, witnessed the first flight of the hydrogen balloon. He even gave money towards its development. Someone asked him what possible use this could have. Mindful of the potential of manned flight, he replied,"Of what possible use is a newborn babe?"

Anonymous said...

LOL!! I thought it was a yummy chocolate sensation. I was thinking how great it would taste and how pretty it was, till I read further down.

J. L. Bell said...

A chocolate version would be even better! (Dark chocolate for me rather than milk chocolate.)