Trash or Treasure: Small sculpture by well-known European artist

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News
Jim Fuester with his 1956 bronze figure.

Jim Fuester had always admired a small sculpture when he visited the home a family friend. When that friend eventually moved into assisted living in another state, he gave the sculpture to him, he told appraiser Richard Fedorowicz at a recent appraisal session held at DuMouchelles art gallery and auction house in downtown Detroit.

His original email included a few more details, including that the artist behind the  bronze piece, is “a well-known European artist named Ernst Eisenmayer who passed away in 2018 in Vienna, Austria,” he wrote. “This sculpture was given to me by a dear family friend before his move to a full time care facility near his grown children in another state. It was originally acquired by my friend while in Europe several decades ago directly from the artist himself.

“I had always admired this handsome sculpture whenever I would visit this gentleman, who was something like a second father to me for quite a number of years. The sculpture has a lovely patina, appears to be a handsome male figure, and is signed on the back at the bottom edge with the artist's initials E. E. and the numbers "56" (or meant to be "5" and "6" as they are staggered).

“I've treasured this work of art ever since he gave it to me…I'm hoping to understand more about this piece. I'm also considering it as a potential bequest to a museum.”

Fedorowicz said the artist lived from 1920 until 2018 and that Fuester’s piece is dated 1956. “Many of his works I found at auction were larger,” the appraiser told him, but they do sell,” adding that he found one that sold for approximately $1,600 in England in 2017 and others that sold between $1,700 and $3,000.

An obituary in The Guardian, written by the artist’s daughter, shared other interesting details about the artist’s life, including that he was born in Vienna to poor Austro-Hungarian Jewish parents. He attended classes in painting and drawing but fled to France in 1938 with the German annexation of Austria. He was arrested at the border and sent to Dachau concentration camp. Many of the drawings he made while there still exist. His younger brother had been able to get to Britain and his guardian there managed to secure Ernst’s release in 1939, possibly one of the last prisoners to be released before the outbreak of World War II.

He began showing his works in Britain in 1944, when he was featured in an exhibition of Austrian art in exile, and became a full-time artist in 1962, it also explained. In 1969 he participated in a group exhibition of sculpture in New York and in 1970 contributed a large sculpture for the British pavilion at Expo ’70 in Japan. He later lived in Italy and Amsterdam before returning to Austria in 1996.

Because Fuester’s piece is smaller and because there are some chips in the marble base, Fedorowicz appraised the sculpture between $700 and $1,500, depending on interest. “I do think it would go closer to the higher end if you were to sell it,” he added. “It’s a nice work. Auctions can surprise you.”

The appraiser added that he’s unsure of the edition number of the sculpture, but that it’s unlikely to be one of a kind. Fuester is keeping it for now, but is considering donating the piece so others can enjoy it.  “I plan to keep it for a while but I am looking into where it might be an appreciated donation,” Fuester added.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.  

About this item:

Item: Sculpture

Owned by: Jim Fuester

Appraised by: Richard Fedorowicz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $700 and up