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Nicolas Briot
French, c. 1579 - 1646
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Biography

Briot was born into a Protestant family at Damblain in the duchy of Bar. His father was a merchant trading in Flanders. In 1602 Briot went to Paris, employed at the mint by Philippe Danfrie I, and in May 1605 was appointed a Tailleur Général, inheriting the Danfrie offices and equipment in 1606. Briot abused his position by working for the mints of Charleville, Sedan and Nancy.

Briot's principal interest was in the improvement of the techniques for striking coinage. The Paris mint already had highly successful screw-presses in the Monnaie du Moulin, controlled by Pierre Regnier. Briot tried to perfect machinery for preparing the coin blanks and for striking by roller presses, based on German machines, in order to acquire the profitable monopoly of coining in Paris and elsewhere. In spite of receiving the grant of the farm of the Mint in 1624, his experiments were unsuccessful. He tried to bribe mint officials, owed substantial wages to his staff, and finally had to flee to London in July 1625. The mint in London was technically primitive so that Briot's undoubted skills enabled him to produce handsome milled coinage both in London and Edinburgh and to acquire the monopoly of royal medal making. He served the government of the interregnum and died in London.

Both in France and in England, Briot produced fewer medals than his ambitions would have led one to expect. In France, his medals concern Louis XIII only.[1] In England he produced one beautiful cast medal of Charles I, for "The Dominion of the Seas" of 1630,[2] numerous struck medals and medalets on affairs of the state, a fine cast portrait of his friend Theodore de Mayerne (1625),[3] and the double portrait medal of Lord and Lady Baltimore (1983.80.1).

[1] Jones 1988, 2: nos. 113-122.

[2] Jones 1988, 2: nos. 144, 148.

[3] Jones 1988, 2: no. 123.

[Published in: John Graham Pollard. Renaissance Medals. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. 2 vols. Washington, 2007]

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