Bronze portrait medal of Zelma Gartner, designed by Andor Mészáros and minted in 1964. It was found in the ruins of John and Zelma's home in Mt Macedon after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983, damaged but still recognisable.

Zelma Gartner was married to well-known numismatist and collector John Gartner. In 1959 John commissioned Andor's son Michael Meszaros to produce a medal portrait of John; this became Michael's first professional commission. Several years later Andor produced this portrait of Zelma as a companion piece. The portraits were mounted on a wooden plaque and hung in the house.

John Gartner and his wife Zelma were both collectors and their house in Mt Macedon held many valuable objects, including medals by Andor 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.

Physical Description

Round bronze medal with head of a woman with short hair in left profile, modelled in low relief. There is an inscription (fire-damaged) around the left edge in capital letters, and the artist's signature appears in the lower right quadrant. One of two bronze mounting pins remains on the reverse.

Obverse Description

Head of woman facing left. Around , ZELMA / 1964. Below right, ANDOR / MÉSZÁROS.

Reverse Description

The reverse is hollow and has pins for mounting on a wooden support.


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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