Balloons (4 of 5)

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The Last Man, Edited by Steven E. Jones


Utopian Enlightenment projects like Robertson's quickly made balloon flight the easy target of caricatures and satires, providing a ready-made symbol of speculation, excessive aspiration, and hubris. Like Icarus, aeronauts sometimes flew too high and were dashed to earth. Such symbolism was for the nineteenth century tied to national and imperial adventurism, especially by the French. The scene at right is from the Coronation Fête of Emperor Napoleon I, 16 December 1804, balloons and fireworks sharing the skies over Paris. The main balloon, carrying a giant crown, was reported to have been discovered the next day in Rome, where it had briefly collided with the tomb of Nero.


Published @ RC

October 1997