Summary

Alternative name: Plaquette, Medal

Bronze plaque designed by Andor Mészáros, and minted in Australia in 1967. It was found in the ashes of a house in Mt Macedon after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983, damaged but still recognisable.

This design was originally conceived by Andor Mészáros in 1966 as one of 7 major large-scale panels for the National Library of Australia. The commission fell through and Andor decided to use the designs for a series of medals. The design was re-interpreted on a more modest scale, then reduced and cast in its current form. He completed 4 of the 7 before his death in 1972.

John Gartner and his wife Zelma were well-known collectors and their house in Mt Macedon held many valuable objects, including medals by Andor and his son Michael Meszaros. 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.

Obverse Description

Rectangular plaque with human figures in low relief. The imagery on the plaque is divided horizontally into two scenes, which is fire-damaged but still discernible. In the upper scene can be seen two human figures in loin cloths; in the lower is a reclining figure.

Reverse Description

Rectangular plaque with fire damage.

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's son, 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.

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