A Texas woman scored an ancient Roman bust for $34.99 at Goodwill

This goodwill purchase was not a total screw up.

In fact, the $34.99 sculpture an art collector picked up in Austin, Texas in 2018 wasn’t just a simple tchotchkebut actually a centuries-old ancient Roman bust that had been missing from Germany since World War II.

Good eye savvy shopper Laura Young said The art journal she spotted the marble bust of a man with curly hair and a beard on the floor, under a table, at her local Goodwill. He looked “pretty dirty, quite old,” she said. She bought it for less than $40, thinking someone might want to buy it for her for a garden statue or something. He weighed 52 pounds and she asked a Goodwill employee to help carry him to her car, where she strapped him in with a seatbelt to keep him safe on the ride home.

However, she was struck by the statue’s age and wear. So she spent the next few years meeting with art history experts from the University of Texas at Austin and several auction houses across the country to try to trace her origin. according to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Sotheby’s consultant Jörg Deterling identified the bust as a centuries-old sculpture that once belonged to the collection of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, which was later authenticated by the Bavarian Palaces, Gardens and Lakes Administration belonging to the state. The bust may represent a son of Pompey the Great (106-48 BC), who was defeated in the civil war by Julius Caesar.

The statue will be returned to its rightful home in Germany next year, but the Bavarian State-owned Palace Administration has agreed that the curious find can be displayed at the San Antonio Art Museum by May 21 2023.

It’s still a mystery how a centuries-old 52-pound marble Roman bust made its way from Germany to a Texas Goodwill store. The museum notes that the work had been installed at the Pompejanum, a replica of a Roman villa in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria in Germany. Allied bombers targeted Aschaffenburg and severely damaged the Pompejanum in January 1944 during World War II. The U.S. Army later established military installations in Aschaffenburg after the war ended, and the museum speculated that a returning soldier likely brought the sculpture back to Texas.

Found in a Texas Goodwill: Portrait of a Man, Roman marble, late 1st century BC-early 1st century AD.

San Antonio Art Museum

“We are very pleased that a piece of Bavarian history that we thought was lost has reappeared and can soon find its rightful place,” said Bernd Schreiber, chairman of the Bavarian Administration for Palaces, Gardens and Lakes belonging to the State. , in a report.

Another incredible side to this story is that this wasn’t Young’s first major score at a Goodwill store. She told The Art Newspaper that she once bought a Chinese painting at Goodwill for cheap and then sold it at Christie’s for $63,000.

“I’ve found a lot of interesting things at Goodwill in the past,” she said.

However, she will not make a net profit from this marble bust. She said it was “bittersweet” to put it back on, “since I knew I couldn’t keep or sell the (bust)”.

But that story is priceless, and Young said she was glad she was able to be a part of the statue’s long and complicated history. “And it looked great in the house while I had it,” she added.

David C. Barham