Mass of fused medals by Andor Mészáros and Michael Meszaros, found in a home at Mt Macedon destroyed by the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.

John Gartner and his wife Zelma were well-known collectors and their house in Mt Macedon held many valuable objects, including medals by leading medallic sculptors Andor Mészáros 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 mass of medals, which includes portrait medals of both John and Zelma, 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.

Physical Description

Mass of fire-damaged bronze medals, comprised of parts of at least 3 medals, with curved surface indicating where the medals have melted over another object. Two of the medals have been identified by Michael Meszaros as portraits of John and Zelma Gartner; there are, however, almost no distinguishing marks remaining from the fire.

Obverse Description

Irregularly shaped fire-damaged fused medals.


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.

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