Historical and Commemorative Medals
 Collection of Benjamin Weiss


SCHARFF, Anton: Austria, 1892, Silver, 45 mm
Obv: Two Asian persons with double-eagled shield
Rev: Monster and dragon with shield:  G'SCHNAS BALL D. WIENER KÜNSTLER HAUSES 29. FEB. 1892  (printed to resemble Chinese lettering)
Square hole (5 mm) in center.
Ref: Forrer V, p.368; Wein. Med. 218; Internat. Medallic Exhibit 219/3069; Wurz. 9397;  Weiss BW415

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 Austria.
This medal commemorates a Fancy Dress Ball with a Chinese theme which was put on by the organization in1892.

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)