Art Dealer Buys Bust From Thrift Store — Only To Discover It’s 2,000 Yrs Old!

For antiques dealers, finding a valuable long-lost artifact from another era is the best part of the hunt.

Laura Young is an art dealer from Texas. Back in 2018, she was browsing in a Goodwill store near Austin when she found an item she found “interesting:” A marble bust of a Roman man. Laura bought the bust, strapped it into her car, and took it home with the $34.99 price tag still stuck on its stone face.

Once she got it home, Laura started doing research to find out where it had originated, and how much it might be worth. She contacted auction houses for information, and eventually Sotheby’s came through with the answers she’d been seeking. What they told her is every antique hunter’s dream!

The bust is 2,000 years old, originating in Roman times. It was modeled after Sextus Pompey, a Roman military leader who was the son of Pompey the Great, one of Julius Caesar’s allies.

But wait, there’s more!

After the fall of the Roman empire, the bust was purchased by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. The German king had commissioned a replica of a Pompeii home, called a Pompejanum, and this bust was displayed within those columned walls.

Experts were even able to find a picture of the bust inside the Pompejanum in a digital database of photos from the 1930s.

The bust stayed in Germany until World War II, when all of the artifacts within the Pompejanum were moved to storage. This turned out to be a very good thing, because the Pompejanum was eventually bombed to rubble during the war.

In 1950, all of the items were unpacked and displayed in the rebuilt Pompejanum — except no one noticed that this particular bust was not among the other artifacts.

“It seems like sometime between when it was put into storage until about 1950, someone found it and took it,” said Lynley McAlpine, a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). “Since it ended up in the US it seems likely that some American that was stationed there got their hands on it.”

Fast forward a few decades… and here’s the priceless marble bust in a Texas thrift shop! Neither Laura nor art experts know where the piece was from 1950 until 2018, but now that it’s been found, it’s destined to return to its original owner back in Bavaria.

The bust will be displayed in SAMA for the next year, but eventually, it will go back to the Pompejanum where it belongs.

Laura says she’d love to hear from whomever donated the bust to Goodwill, but either way, she’s thrilled to learn the history behind her bargain find. She’s now a part of history herself, tied irrevocably to a priceless piece of art she found by chance.

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