A new perspective on the city

From March 31st to July 09th, 2023 -
Musée d'Orsay
Map & itinerary
Marcellin Varcollier
Caserne des Célestins à Paris, vue prise à vol d'oiseau, en 1877
Musée d'Orsay
Don Mmes Laure et Marguerite Varcollier, 1980
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
See the notice of the artwork
From tethered balloons to the first airplane flights, aeronautical inventions have opened up new perspectives on the city. This exhibition shows the evolution of the way we look at the city, which was enriched by all the arts: photography, painting, engraving and architectural drawing.

In 1858, Félix Nadar took the first aerial photographs from the basket of a balloon, west of Paris. For a long time the preserve of a few aeronauts, this new view of the city became available to everyone thanks to Henry Giffard’s tethered balloons, which allowed visitors to the Universal Exhibitions to take flight. During the 1878 Exhibition, thousands of people discovered the panorama of Paris from the gondola of the huge aerostat moored in the Tuileries.


Revealing an unprecedented perspective on the capital, the ascents and aerial photographs caused a shift in the way people looked at the city. Appearing as early as 1855 with Victor Navlet’s spectacular Vue générale de Paris, prise de l’Observatoire, this change of perspective soon made its mark on urban architecture. Helped by the rise of aviation, the emancipation of the gaze became a form of artistic modernity and a new way of imagining the city. Explored by painters and photographers, the bird’s eye view was a favourite subject of the avant-garde.

The exhibition is now over.

See the whole program

Exhibition artworks