and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss
GREAT PEKING MEDAL
SCHARFF, Anton: Austria, 1892, Silver, 45 mm
The neo-Renaissance Vienna Künstlerhaus was commissioned
by the Viennese Society of Fine Arts in 1868 and is adorned with life-size
statues of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and many others. It is an
exhibition place, rich in tradition. The historical building, dating back to
the era of the Ringstraße, was built on the centrally located Karlsplatz
next to the world famous building of the Musikverein in 1868, as an
event site and exhibition house for the oldest artist association of
The "double-eagled shield" on the obverse is the coat of arms of the city of Vienna (in use 1465–1925). (cf. the illustration from Stoehl's "Heralidischer Atlas").
The shield on the reverse is a version of the emblem or logo of the "Gesellschaft bildender Künstler Österreichs, Künstlerhaus" (Austrian Artists' Society, Künstlerhaus): three small shields (in various arrangements over the years) in a bigger shield representing the arts in the society: a painter's palette, brush, and maulstick, a sculptor's chisel and hammer, and an architect's pair of compasses (images of the Vienna Künstlerhaus and image of logo).
Contemporary notes (in newspapers and pamphlets published in 1892) identify the 'monster' on the reverse as a "foo dog" (a Chinese guardian lion).
A G'schnasball is a special kind of late 19th century fancy costume ball - a combination of a fancy costume party and an elegant ball, a formal dance. Normally, a "Gschnas"/costume party is a funny and low-key event, while a ball is a black-tie or white-tie event and is very formal. The 'Künstlerhaus-Gschnas' was an annual highlight of the Viennese Carnival; the members of the Artist's Association decorated the Künstlerhaus according to the theme of the party with temporary installations. In 1892, they converted the building into (mock) 'Chinese' festive halls with mock paintings and exhibitions of fake chinoiseries and more than 150 busts making fun of artists, politicians and officials. After the event, all these items were sold in auctions and brought revenue for the Artists' Association. (Information courtesy of Dr. Monika Lehner, University of Vienna)