Was my antique store find made by the Heisman Trophy sculptor?

When I bought this sculpture a year ago, I knew right away it was a model for skin grafting in nasal reconstruction first described in the 16th Century.

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A month ago, I was browsing through my hi-res photos and I took a closer look at the artist signature on the sculpture.

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Previous searches of possible names were futile, but this time I could clearly see ELISCU. The search returned Frank Eliscu, the sculptor of the Heisman Trophy.

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Frank Eliscu (1912–1996) was 23 when he was commissioned to design the Heisman trophy. He completed it in 1935. (Source Image URL from prweb)

Of course I wanted to believe it was the same person, but I’ve been collecting and studying antiques long enough to know, you need proof.

So I set out to prove it. The first thing I did was look for known signatures of Frank Eliscu and sadly they didn’t match.

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Left signature from a large Frank Eliscu ‘Noah’s Arc’ Bronze Sculpture. (Source: Live Auctioneers)

However, I postulated the signature on my statuette might have been from earlier in his career. Undeterred, I sought out to connect Frank Eliscu to the subject matter of the statuette. The Taliacotian Operation, known as an Italian rhinoplasty, is so esoteric I felt that would be a major proof point if Frank was familiar with it or exposed to it.

I knew the operation was used in 1944 based on the infantryman in the graphic photo below. It’s important to note this 16th Century operation was practiced as late as WWII.

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Nose reconstruction, circa 1944 (Source: The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

Because when I added “medical” to my search, I found out Frank Eliscu served in the Army Medical Corps in WWII.[1]

In 1943, he developed a unique technique used by the U.S. Army to rehabilitate facial disfigurements from injuries sustained in battle.[2]

According to his discharge papers, he:

“Made drawings in the operating room of surgical procedures, modeling of features for reconstructive surgery, and carving cartilage for grafting in plastic surgery, pigmentation of skin in plastic procedures.”[2]

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Even in the army, Frank never stopped sculpting. (Source: Frank Elisu Facebook Page)

Was the statuette made by the late great Frank Eliscu during WWII? I found that photo on a Facebook page maintained by his family. I sent them photos of my statuette and asked if they might know anything about it. I’m still waiting for a response.

In the meantime, I was shocked when I was made aware of another sculpture auctioned off in June 2010.

ROBERT ELISCU; Bronze bust, 20th c.; On marble base; 7 1/2" x 13" Estimate: $3,000 — $4,000

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The bronze bust (left) was up for auction and is actually three times the size of the mine (right). (Source: Rago Auction)

Robert Eliscu, not Frank Eliscu! Who is Robert? I can’t find anything else about Robert Eliscu besides this sculpture, so I’m trying to get in contact with Rago Auctions. If they turn out to be a dead end, then hopefully they could put me in touch with the owner.

Even with the mismatched signatures, the provenance seemed to be falling right into place. But now I have more investigating to do. Any help is greatly appreciated.

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Have fun guessing and learning about our collection of unusual objects at WornOverTime.com.

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