Goodwill $34.99 purchase turned out to be an ancient Roman bust nearly 2,000 years old

In August 2018, Laura Young was shopping at an Austin-area Goodwill when she came across a 52-pound marble bust.

“I was just looking for something that looked interesting,” Young said, and when she saw it, she knew she had to have it.

“It was a bargain at $35, there was no reason not to buy it,” Young said. She told CNN on Friday that she has been reselling her antique finds since 2011.

After the transaction, she knew she had to do some research to see if the piece had a story.

And the story he had.

Little did she know the purchase would have Roman ties and would end up in the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), 4 years later.

She contacted auction houses and experts to get all the information she could on the marble structure.
Eventually, Sotheby’s confirmed that the bust was in fact from Ancient Roman times and estimated it to be around 2,000 years old.

A specialist was able to track down the bust on a digital database and found photos from the 1930s of the head in Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, Germany.

SAMA postdoctoral fellow Lynley McAlpine told CNN it would be the bust of Sextus Pompey, a Roman military leader. His father, Pompey the Great, was once an ally of Julius Caesar.
The bust was housed in a replica of a house in Pompeii, also known as Pompejanum, commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
There it was on display until World War II, which was the last time it was seen until Young purchased it in 2018.
The portrait displayed in the courtyard of the Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, 1931.

The bust, along with other artifacts from the house, had been in storage before the Pompejanum was bombed and destroyed during the war. At some point the part was stolen from storage.

“It appears that between the time it was put into storage and around 1950, someone found it and took it,” McAlpine said. “Since it ended up in the United States, it seems likely that an American who was stationed there got their hands on it.”

Young says she still wonders how the piece ended up at a Goodwill in Austin, Texas.

The bust, believed to be that of Sextus Pompey, will be on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art until May 2023.

She said she tried to find the person who donated the statue through Craigslist, but had no luck.

“I would really like whoever donated it to come forward,” Young said. “It’s probably not the original person who took it, but I’d still like to know the story.”

The piece is currently on contractual loan to SAMA for a year, but McAlpine explains that it still technically belongs to Germany since it was looted from the warehouse.

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Young is proud to have her unique find on display for others to learn of her story, but after May 2023 the bust will be returned to Germany where it will once again be on display at the Pompejanum.


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