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Saucer - Soucoupe


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1784 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt

  • Credit Line:

    Given by W. J. Sainsbury

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case CA23

The Sèvres porcelain painter, André-Vincent Vielliard might have seen the dramatic incident depicted on this saucer himself. On 2nd March 1784, the pioneering aeronaut, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, brought his hydrogen gas balloon down only a short distance from Sèvres in the rue de Sèvres in Billancourt. He had taken off from the Champ de Mars in Paris and intended to fly to La Villette, however the wind blew him south-west towards Sèvres. His daring exploits caused a sensation as this was only the third time Parisians had witnessed such an event: the first successful manned balloon flight had taken place on 21st November 1783, when Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes took off from the palace of Versailles in a hot air balloon made by the Montgolfier brothers. The first manned hydrogen balloon flight had taken place on 1st December 1783, when Professor Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert ascended from the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. In this unusual view, Blanchard's hydrogen balloon is shown weighted down with a beam of wood to prevent it from rising and disappearing into the ether.
It is not surprising that a number of tea wares painted with this subject are known, as the flights sparked a veritable mania for ballooning and Sèvres responded by creating the equivalent of modern-day souvenirs, albeit for well-heeled customers. Ballooning scenes were also painted on fans and snuff boxes and influenced fashion with puffed skirts and sleeves and even special hairstyles.

Physical description

A deep saucer with straight sides, the white ground enamelled with a scene depicting a hydrogen balloon (not a Montgolfière) in a landscape (probably showing the first flight ever by Jean-Pierre Blanchard from the Champ de Mars to the plain of Billancourt, near Sèvres), suspension hole in the footrim.

Place of Origin

France (made)


1784 (made)


Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt

Marks and inscriptions

Interlaced 'L's in blue enamel with date letter 'GG'
Maker's mark

a label
Painter's mark of a label (heraldic sign for the eldest son) in blue enamel for Vielliard



Diameter: 122 mm, Height: 27 mm

Object history note

Given by Mr. W.J. Sainsbury.

Descriptive line

Soft paste porcelain saucer, painted with a ballooning scene in enamels by Vielliard and gilt, made by Sèvres porcelain factory, France, 1784


Soft-paste porcelain

Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

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