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Family Penin – French medal artists from Lyon

Since 1830, several generations of engravers have signed with Penin. 

Maurius Pons Jean-Baptiste Penin, born in 1807, coming from a family of French Mediterranean Provence that originates from Flanders (Belgium). His father was a goldsmith in Barjols. He went to an apprenticeship of repoussé and chasing technic at Nimes. He established in Lyon in the late 1920s, attracted by the many medal manufactories, that made of Lyon the center of the medal production of France.

antique postcard picture of French medal engraver Marius Penin
1868 – Marius Penin, engraved this medal in memory of his son, Ludovic Penin – PORTRAIT OF LUDOVIC PENIN.

After working for several manufacturers, he exposes his personal work at the expositions of the ‘ Société des Amis des Arts ‘. His talent is soon to be recognized and thus many demands to produce tokens and medals for various societies came up. He is soon to become one of the two best engravers in the city of Lyon. He also re-establishes prestige to the religious medals, thanks to his great talent and fervent catholic belief. He passes the commands of the family business to his son, Ludovic in 1860. Marius Penin will produce one more medal, in 1868, in memory of his son, Ludovic, that died in 1868. The succession of the family business will then be run by Alexander Poncet, husband of the daughter of Ludovic Penin. Marius Penin dies in 1880.

His son, Ludovic Penin (1830-1868), also very talented and more focused on religious medal then his father, signs his first work in 1859. His talent is soon to be recognized and he receives the title of Pontifical engraver in 1864 by pope Pius IX. This title will remain for the during the reign of Pope Pius IX, Pope Leone XII, and Pope Pius XI. Unfortunately, he dies young, at the age of 38, one year after acquiring a medal factory at Montchat that mints the medals he’s designing.

Alexander Poncet (1844-1913) was a talented engraver that has been recommended by the sculptor Fabisch to Marius Penin. Marius finished the apprenticeship of Alexander, so he could become the official engraver for the Penin family. He produces his own medals and mints the designs left with the signature of Ludovic Penin. After marrying the daughter of Ludovic Penin, he becomes an associate of the family business WHICH takes up the name of Penin-Poncet.

The grandson of Ludovic Penin, Adolphe Penin, born in 1888, will take up the business, after graduating from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts of Lyon and then of Paris, where he was the student of Henri Auguste Jules Patey. The 1914-1918 war, in which he’ll be gravely wounded, will put a halt to his career. So, only a few medals will be signed by him (Penin à Lyon). A few civil medals are produced and an important series of saints medals as well as medals for the sanctuary of Lourdes. He’ll mostly concentrate on managing the family business who still produced many medal for many religious institutions.

It will be his son, Paul Penin, born in 1921, that will succeed to him in 1950. Paul Penin will also graduate from the Beaux-Arts School of Lyon and of Paris where he was the student of the renowned artist; Henri Dropsy. He came back to Lyon to help his father before taking over completely the family business. It is with much talent and grace that he’ll engrave more than 2000 medals and produced many sculptures.

During the second half of the 19th century, we’ll also see medals signed with Penin-Poncet à Lyon. They come from Edmond Penin (son or grandson of Marius Penin) and Louis Poncet. Another signature still is enigmatic until now: “ L. Penin Fec. “, which would probably be from Ludovic Penin associated with another engraver, for a short time.

In 1999, the family business of Penin has been bought up from the renowned house of Giard, from Paris.

As of today, a part of this legacy has been transferred to China, by a Belgian company that became the owner of many of the matrices and so some of these newly minted religious medals are today “made in China”.

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