This double portrait of the Montgolfier brothers must date to the middle 1790s because Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier died in 1799 while his older brother lived until 1810. The brothers invented the Montgolfière, globe airostatique or European hot air balloon. They succeeded in launching the first manned ascent to carry a young physician and an army officer into the sky on 21 November 1783. They were later ennobled with their father and brothers and sisters as de Montgolfier. Presumably Joseph, the elder of the two brothers, is depicted on the left next to Etienne in Boilly's portrait. Boilly chose a small oval format for this double portrait which may have been executed with illustration in a book or journal in mind.
The Montgolfier Brothers, Joseph-Michel (1740-1810) and Jacques Etienne (1745-1799)
Black chalk, with white opaque watercolor on paper.
4 5/8 x 3 7/8 inches (117 x 98 mm), oval
Gift of Stuart and Beverly Denenberg in honor of William M. Griswold.
Signed at right edge: "Boilly".
Sale, London, Sotheby's, 13 January 1988, lot 295, as Boilly, portrait of Montgolfier brothers; Kate de Rothschild, London; Martin Reymert, Paris/New York; Denenberg Fine Arts, Inc., San Francisco; Mrs. John Jay Ide, San Francisco; Estate of Mrs. John Jay Ide; Stuart and Beverly Denenberg, Los Angeles