Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


NINI, Jean-Baptiste: USA, 1777, Terracotta, 109 mm
Obv: Bust of Franklin    B. FRANKLIN. AMERICAN
Rev: Blank with mark
Signed: NINI. F. 1777 along with a crest, which refers to Franklinís demonstration that lightning is a form of electricity
Ref: see Betts 247/548;  Jaeger and Bowers 40/29;  Weiss BW182

Nini produced this plaque while Franklin was in Paris as ambassador to the French court of Louis XVI. During his time in France, Franklin struck up a friendship with Nini and accepted Nini's hospitality at the castle of Chaumont where he was proprietor.  Nini worked for Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, Franklin's landlord.

This portrait is based on a drawing by Thomas Walpole. Franklin's son-in-law, Richard Bache, considered the likeness on this medallion to be better than the print by Charles Nicholas Cochin and Augustin de Saint-Aubin, then the most widely copied portrait of Franklin. 

According to Forrer, this medallion enjoyed considerable success, encouraging Nini to reproduce it in many varieties. On some Franklin is wearing spectacles, on others he is bare-headed or coiffed with the cap of liberty. In 1779, Nini sent to America five or six cases, each containing about a hundred specimens. En route the ship was wrecked, but most of the boxes of medals were recovered and were sent to Nantes, where some found their way back to England.

LINK to Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (from earlyamerica.com)