The development of manned flight from hot air balloon to heavier-than-air machines was recorded and disseminated to the public via promotional posters. Some of the most influential works from this crucial time in the history of aviation will be coming to auction in our October 26 sale of Rare & Important Travel Posters.
In 1910, seven years after the Wright Brothers took to the air, aviation expositions began to pop up all over Europe. One of the most important such festivals was held from June 19-26 in Rouen, France, in which twelve airplanes were aloft simultaneously (imagine that!).
The Grande Semaine d’Aviation, as it was called, was primarily advertised by two posters issued the same year, both emphasizing the sheer impossibility of a person sailing through the clouds.
Charles Rambert‘s exuberant poster emphasizes new technology outpacing the old. The gargoyles atop the famous spires of Rouen Cathedral–one of which is engulfed in scaffolding–recoil as they see a pilot whiz by.
Photomontage of Leon Morane swooping around the Rouen Cathedral. Courtesy of Le Blog de Rouen.
In a curious instance of life imitating art, one of the more memorable moments of the event was when the pilot Leon Morane “caused a sensation by flying around the venerable cathedral in the heart of the city,” according to the catalogue for The National Air & Space Museum – Smithsonian Institution’s 2000 exhibition titled Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight.
In Georges Villa‘s interpretation of the event, several flying machines, their wings illuminated by the fiery orange of the setting sun, soar above Rouen Cathedral and the city’s winding river and hills. In the center of the image is the personification of flying machines and the “Spirit of Flight” herself, perhaps intended to remind viewers of Joan of Arc, who was famously executed at Rouen in 1431.