Chaplain was the most important French medallist of his period. He entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1857 as a pupil of the sculptor Jouffroy and of the medallist Oudine. He took the Premier Prix de Rome for a medal in 1863, and lived at the French Academy in Rome between 1864 and 1868. He followed a regular and conventional professional life in Paris, becoming an official engraver for the coinage of the state and a member of the Institut, while at the same time producing a stream of beautifully considered personal portrait medals and commemorative plaquettes both private and official, the medals and plaquettes having compositions of great imaginative skill and independence in the tradition of classical sculptural compositions. He produced roughly equal quantities of medals by both casting and striking and was, with his only serious rival Oscar Roty (1846-1911), a total master of the reducing machine that enabled large sculptural models to be translated into dies without any loss of the emotional and aesthetic impact.
[Published in: John Graham Pollard. Renaissance Medals. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. 2 vols. Washington, 2007]