Fête de Ballons pour glorifier Montgolfier by Victor Philippe Lemoine-Benoit, €6500 (£5605) at Spik.

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These were invented by the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who demonstrated their first unmanned balloon in June 1783. In November the same year, the first manned flight took place in Paris. This event, witnessed by Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Benjamin Franklin among others, enthralled the spectators.

Half a century later, it obviously inspired Lemoine-Benoit. Although very little is known about the painter, he cannot have witnessed the event he portrayed in dozens of related paintings of varying sizes.

He was born in Versailles, perhaps in 1802, but the year of his death is unknown. His active career seems to have lasted from about 1831 to 1852. The latter date was provided by a watercolour Woman in Italian Peasant Dress which belongs to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. The majority of his paintings are undated, and most of them depict an event that, as far can be ascertained, never actually took place.

High interest

On March 21, one of Lemoine-Benoit’s works came under the hammer at Spik (20% buyer’s premium) in Berlin. The 2ft 4in x 3ft (71 x 91cm) canvas came from the legacy of a local collector and was in moderate condition, a fact reflected by the modest guide of €3500.

It was titled Fête de Ballons pour glorifier Montgolfier. According to a further inscription, the balloon festival took place in Château de la Muette. The 16th century château near the Bois du Boulogne which belonged to the royal family was indeed the starting point for the historic flight of 1783. In the 1920 the old building was demolished to make way for new mansions, including one for Henri James de Rothschild.

On auction day, there was a brief exchange of bids before an unnamed buyer secured the painting for €6500 (£5605).