|Monsieur and Madame Garnerin by Christoph Haller von Hallerstein, 1803|
Born Jeanne-Geneviève Labrosse in Paris in 1775, the young woman was among an enthusiastic crowd who gathered to watch André-Jacques Garnerin fly his hydrogen-powered balloon at Parc Monceau on 22nd October 1797. An innovator in the world of ballooning, Garnerin causing a sensation when he piloted his gondola safely, if a little bumpily, back down to earth with the help of a silk parachute of his own design. Jeanne was fascinated by what she had witnessed and signed up to become a pupil of Garnerin, eventually flying with him on 10th November 1798, four months after he courted controversy by taking a highly-publicised flight with another young lady!
|German Commemorative Medal, 1803|
Finding in Garnerin a kindred spirit, Jeanne married the balloonist and in 1802 filed a patent application for "a device called a parachute". With continental Europe conquered by the intrepid Garnerins and André-Jacques appointed Official Aeronaut of France, the couple turned their attention to fresh pastures and travelled to England in 1802. Once again their demonstrations proved enormously popular and Jeanne outdid herself, making a successful descent from 8000 feet over London.
The couple remained in England until war broke out in 1803 at which point they returned home to resume their career in France. When André-Jacques died in 1823, Jeanne retired from the ballooning life and passed the reins on to her niece, Elisa Garnerin. By the time Jeanne died in 1847 Elisa was celebrated across Europe for her own ballooning exploits, inspired by the aunt who had caused such a sensation!