Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

Portrait, Jacques Charles, 1st Manned Hydrogen Balloon Flight, Antique Print, Paris, c. 1783


Simon Charles Miger (1736-1820) (after)
Charles aux Thuilleries
[Portrait of Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles]
S.C. Miger, Paris: c. 1780s
Black-and-white copperplate engraving
9.25 x 6.75 inches, image
11.75 x 9 inches, overall

A portrait print of Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles (1746-1823), a French physicist and pioneering balloonist. It celebrates the first manned ascent in a hydrogen-balloon, made by him (with another balloonist) from the Tuileries, Paris, on December 1, 1783. The portrait is set within an engraved round frame hanging in a cloud-filled sky by three chains that in turn are surrounded by the form of a hot air balloon. An eagle in the foreground supports an inscribed banner beside him inscribed (as translated into English): “Charles in the Tuilleries, 1st December 1783.”  As portrayed in the print, on that historic date, he figuratively and somewhat literally ascended into the clouds beneath a gas-filled air transport balloon. The round frame enclosing his portrait possibly is intended to mimic the hoop ring frame of a balloon. An inscription above the image, translated into English, reads “until then without equal, the monarch of the air followed his rival.” That might refer to the first manned balloon flight which had taken place 10 days prior by rival balloonist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, in a Montgolfier brothers hot air balloon.

Product Description Continues Below


Charles conceived the idea that hydrogen could be used to fly a manned balloon based on various scientific principles including Boyle’s Law.  Working with his contemporaries the Robert brothers (Anne-Jean Robert and Nicolas-Louis Robert — known collectively as Les Frères Robert), he launched the world’s first hydrogen filled balloon on August 27, 1783 from the Champ de Mars, Paris. On December 1 of the same year, they launched a manned balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. Jacques Charles was accompanied by Nicolas-Louis Robert as co-pilot of the 380-cubic-meter, hydrogen-filled balloon. They ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet and traveled to Nesles-la-Vallée, Unlike the Robert brothers, Charles never flew again, though a hydrogen balloon came to be called a Charlière in his honor.As an inventor, Charles developed a valve to let hydrogen out of the balloon. He also worked on improvements of various other scientific devices. Charles’s law (also known as the law of volumes), describing how gases tend to expand when heated, was first published by natural philosopher Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac in 1802 who credited it to unpublished work by Jacques Charles, and thus named it after him.

Simon Charles Miger was a French printmaker and publisher. He engraved numerous portraits of French royalty, which are in the collections of museums such as the National Gallery of Art, Washington. He also engraved and published books on a variety of subjects, including natural history and philosophical writings by Voltaire and others.

Legend on banner: “Charles aux Thuilleries le 1r Decembre M.DCCLXXXIII.”

Inscription, upper center: “jusqu’alors sans égal Le Monarque des Aira y suivit son Rival.”

Inscription lower left: “Miger Graveur du Roi.”

Inscription lower right: “A Paris chez Miger la grande Maison neuve Place de l’Estrapade.”

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soft creases.


Additional information


18th Century