ImageThe medal is given as a reward to a historically meritorious person. It is given at an appropriate occasion- to commemorate an anniversary or for exceptional merits, accompanied by a ritual of a public or festive act. The nobleness and exceptional quality of the medal is determined by its material, which also serves to fulfil the aspiration to become a lasting souvenir by the very choice of material: it is as a rule, minted or cast in precious metals (gold, silver, bronze) and it is made by eminent artists. That's why it is also a miniaturist work of art. Its dimensions are determined by human body measures: the surface of the palm or, for a chain or medallion, the central part of the human chest. The palms and chest are human symbolic and preciously valuable zones.

The obverse side of the medal indicates the person who is being honoured by the medal, or the event that is being emphasized by the medal. This is why the obverse side is the denotative field. The reverse side determines the nature of the merit or the value that is being emphasized by the medal by a symbolic composition or text (legend). This is why the reverse forms a connotative horizon around the obverse in the meaningful structure of the medal as a symbolic sign.

The origin of the medal comes from the mythical rituals and objects that were considered symbols of fate in pre-historic times: the amulets, talismans, good-luck pieces and similar objects. The esthetic feeling from which it originated is the feeling for the beauty of the natural form: the pebble or the form of an ideal circle. The magic of the circle is the archetype of the magic of the medal.

At the time of the Roman Empire the medal appeared as the sign of homage, whereas the tabula - the table with a historic inscription - can be considered the ancestor of the plaque. The Croatian medallist art has its beginning at the time of the Renaissance, when the ancient Roman custom of presenting medals was reintroduced. Ever since that time the development of medal design, the medal design of modern times, has continued uninterruptedly. The contemporary medal has, in many respects, retained many of the fundamental Rennaissance characteristics, by its form, its symbolism and characteristic inventory (the symbolic micro-systems), and its ethical meaning. All this also applies to the Croatian medal design, but its historic development is the illustration of the dramatic history and conflicts that the country, its people and culture had to live through. The first medal in the history of the Croatian medal design was made by Pavao Dubrovcanin (his name was actually Pavko Antojevic, a native of Dubrovnik) in Naples at about 1450. That was barely twenty years after the first Renaissance medal was made by Pisanello.

The first medal minted on Croatian soil originates from the year 1706. Its author was Pavao Lonciares from Naples, who has also coined money in Dubrovnik.

Several eminent people in Croatia were honoured by medals at the time of the Renaissance; there are several historical events, particularly from the time of the war for the liberation from the Turks, all of them marked by medals that also tell us about the Croatian destiny, but the uninterrupted continuity of Croatian medal design runs from the middle of the 19th century and is closely connected with the period of the National Revival.

The contemporary medal design was born at the time of the secession in art, with medals designed by Robert Franges Mihanovic and Rudolf Valdec. The first half of the 20th century is marked by the medal design of Ivo Kerdic and his contemporaries. But the Croatian medal design has received its authentic expression due to the genius ofVanja Radaus and his free forming of expressionist tactile medals, robust and laconic. Following in his wake comes the inexhaustible lucidity and visionary medal design ofZelimir Janes - by which the Croatian medal design has finally become distinguished as one of the most significant, individualistic and noticeable designs within the framework of world creation in this specific medium, the medium that has brought together the virtuosity of the miniature and the monumentality of the meaning.


Bogdan Mesinger