Similar items over time

Medal Fragment - Portrait of John Gartner, Michael Meszaros, Australia, 1959 (Bushfire Affected) Numismatics Reg. No: NU 48432

Fragment of bronze portrait medal of John Gartner, designed by Michael Meszaros. It was found in the ruins of John's home in Mt Macedon after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983.

Michael Meszaros followed in the footsteps of his father Andor to become a professional artist and leading medallist. This was his first commission, at the age of 14, from family friend and well-known collector, John Gartner. Meszaros worked on the piece in his father's studio after school and while he was away, Andor would make small changes to the modelling. Michael Meszaros accused him of 'fiddling' with the work, but Andor always vigorously denied it. Several years later Andor created a companion piece, a portrait of John's wife Zelma.

John Gartner and his wife Zelma were both collectors and their house in Mt Macedon held many valuable objects, including medals by both Andor Mészáros and Michael. The house and its contents were destroyed by the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 16 February 1983, and the Gartner's barely escaped with their lives. This medal was one of the few recognisable pieces retrieved from the ashes of the fire. It was given to Michael Meszaros after the fires and lay in his studio for 28 years before being donated to the museum. The medal was composed of tombac, a bronze alloy made up of 90% copper and 10% zinc, and the filigree effect around the edge of the fragment indicates where the zinc vaporised in the heat of the fire.
Fragment of round bronze medal with 'filigree' edge and curved surface to show where it has melted over another object. On the obverse can be discerned the curve of a man's head in profile and an ear in low relief.
Statement Of Significance:
John and Zelma Gartner were well-known collectors in the fields of numismatics, philately and the decorative arts. When their house in Mt Macdeon burned on Ash Wednesday, the loss of their collections was a blow not only to themselves but to the fields in which they were known. This fragment, retrieved from the ashes of the house, signifies the loss of valuable objects both personal and cultural in many people's homes. The fact that it was returned to the artist, who kept it for 28 years before donating it, is a testament to the enduring connection that people forge with objects, even when those objects are changed or destroyed.

For over half a century, sculptors Andor (1900-1973) and Michael (1945- ) Meszaros have created medals that reflect the high points of life in Australia. From major awards and portraits of eminent Australians to artwork celebrating popular culture and the natural world, these objects illuminate our culture and history. Grounded in a centuries-old European art tradition, the medals create connections across disciplines and link such diverse subjects as scientific advances, religious themes, sport, the performing arts and motherhood. Through their public and private commissions and their personal artworks, the Meszaros sculptors have defined the modern Australian medal.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Michael Meszaros, 2010
Discipline: Numismatics
Dimensions: 104 mm (Height), 118 mm (Width)
Dimension Comment: Irregular due to effect of fire

More information

Tagged with: bushfires, portrait medals, ash wednesday bushfires 1983, medals, collectors, -1
Themes this item is part of: Michael Meszaros, Sculptor & Medal Artist (1945-), Andor Mészáros, Medal Artist (1900-1972), Migration Collection, Numismatics & Philately Collection, Sustainable Futures Collection, Victorian Bushfires Collection, Meszaros Medals Collection
Primary Classification: MEDALS
Secondary Classification: Portrait
Tertiary Classification: (to be classified)
Obverse Description: Irregular fire-damaged section of medal.
Reverse Description: Irregular fire-damaged section of medal.
Shape: off-round (damaged)
Commissioned By: John Gartner, Victoria, Australia, 1959
Artist: Michael Meszaros, Kew, Victoria, Australia, 1959
Place & Date of Event: Mt Macedon, Victoria, Australia, 16 Feb 1983

Date medal damaged in Ash Wednesday Bushfires
Previous Owner: John Gartner, Mt Macedon, Victoria, Australia, circa 1959-1983
Previous Owner: Michael Meszaros, Kew, Victoria, Australia, 1983-2012
  1. [Catalogue] Sharples, John P. 1990. Medals as Art: Australia and the Meszaros Tradition.

Add your comment

  • Museum Victoria does not provide valuations, for more information please visit the valuation infosheet
  • Please note that Museum Victoria staff will not normally respond to comments posted on our website.
Yes No