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Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune : “Fireworks Display Presented to the King and Queen by the City of Paris for the Birth of the Dauphin” (1782)

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The festivities celebrating the birth of the Dauphin to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette culminated with this elaborate fireworks display. Staged on the Place de la Grève in Paris, opposite the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), the fireworks were launched from a temporary structure constructed expressly for the event, a neoclassical temple atop a mountainous base flanked by fountains and two giant illuminated columns. Moreau beautifully captures the dramatic pyrotechnics against the nighttime sky-the rockets, the sunbursts, and the billowing smoke — although he certainly exaggerates the scale of the spectacle just as he did with the size of the plaza and crowd.

Credit Line: Text courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (CC BY 3.0).

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