Peter Fitzgerald's Crimea War Medal
The Forrester Gallery is currently showing Regroup Reflect Regenerate: Medal Artists of New Zealand 25th Anniversary Exhibition. This exhibition celebrates the art of small-scale sculpture with a display of contemporary medal art featuring more than 200 medals crafted by 33 New Zealand artists over the last 25 years. Medals traditionally commemorate achievement but they are also works of art.
The medals in the museum collection include military medals as well as prize medals. Recently Lee Cooper, Collections Officer, has been photographing these medals. One medal that caught my eye is this Crimea Medal (North Otago Museum collection 01/167) with three bars, Alma, Inkermann and Sebastopol. It was awarded to a Peter Fitzgerald or Fitgerald, who later lived at Georgetown, North Otago.
The obverse or front of the medal shows Queen Victoria and the date 1854. It is the reverse or back of the medal that has the more interesting symbolic imagery. It shows a roman legionary holding a sword and a circular shield. He is being crowned with a laurel wreath by Victory. Two artists designed this medal. The obverse is by William Wyon (1795-1851) while the striking reverse design is by William’s nephew, Benjamin Wyon (1802-1858). Many members of the Wyon family worked designing medals, coins and other items. Our example is quite worn and some details in the original design, such as the lion on the shield can no longer be clearly seen. But even in this battered state the skill of the original engraver is clear.
Regroup Reflect Regenerate: Medal Artists of New Zealand 25th Anniversary Exhibition is at the Forrester Gallery and closes on February 12th, 2017.