Goodwill sold a bust for $34.99. It’s an ancient Roman relic.

Laura Young was browsing a Goodwill store in Austin, Texas in 2018 when she found a bust for sale. It was lying on the floor under a table with a yellow price tag on its cheek: $34.99. she bought it

Turns out it wasn’t just another heavy stone oddity fit for garden plunking. It was a real Roman bust from the late 1st century BC. BC or early 1st century AD, which was part of the art collection of a Bavarian king from the 19th century until it was sacked in World War II.

How it got to Texas remains a mystery. But the most likely route suggests it was taken by an American soldier after the Bavarian king’s mansion in Germany was bombed by Allied forces.

This week it was displayed at the San Antonio Museum of Art, alongside signs recognizing Ms Young’s role in the discovery following the bust’s unlikely 2,000-year journey from ancient Rome to the Goodwill Boutique on Far West Boulevard.

Next year it will be returned to the Bavarian government under an agreement with Ms. Young, who ended her own complex relationship with the ancient artifact, which she had kept on a dresser in her living room for the past three and a half years.

She had named it Dennis Reynolds, after a character on the comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Like this vain and narcissistic fellow, the 52-pound marble bust was “a very difficult, cold, distant, unemotional man who caused me some trouble,” Ms. Young said.

When Ms. Young, an antiques and vintage goods dealer, first discovered the bust, as reported by KUT in Austin and The Art Newspaper, she knew it was likely to be valuable.

“I caught it out in the light,” she said. “He had chips at the base. He had clear repairs. he looks old I’ve been to museums. I have seen Roman portrait heads before.”

She did a Google image search for “roman bust” and found, “You look a lot like my husband.”

After strapping the bust home in the front seat of her car, she contacted two auction houses, Bonhams and Sotheby’s, who both confirmed that her suspicion was correct: the bust came from ancient Rome.

Ms Young was on holiday celebrating her 40th birthday when she received the email from Bonhams. She wanted to return home immediately.

“He was at my house alone,” she said.

But later research, corroborated by the Bavarian government, soon confirmed that Ms. Young would not be able to sell the piece and fulfill the imagination of anyone who ever scoured goodwill shops and flea markets for priceless treasures Has.

Sometime before 1833, the bust had been acquired by Ludwig I, a Bavarian king, who had it displayed in the courtyard of the Pompejanum, his replica of a Roman villa in Pompeii, in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg, according to Mrs. Young, lawyer Leila A. Amineddoleh .

The Pompejanum was badly damaged by Allied bombing in 1944 and 1945, and while some of its objects survived, others disappeared, Ms Amineddoleh said.

The art theft by the Nazis attracted a great deal of attention. But because the bust ended up in Texas, it’s likely an American soldier either stole it or traded it for it after the war, Ms Amineddoleh said.

That meant Ms Young was not the rightful owner because Germany had never sold the piece or relinquished the title on it, Ms Amineddoleh said. Ms Young said Goodwill is also unable to provide answers as to the origins of the bust.

“I immediately thought, ‘Okay, I can’t keep him and I can’t sell him,'” Ms. Young said. “It was extremely bittersweet, to say the least. But I only have control over what I can control, and art theft, looting during a war, is a war crime. I can’t be involved.”

So Ms. Young agreed to send the bust back to Bavaria. In return, she only receives a “small finder’s fee”, which Mrs. Amineddoleh does not want to disclose.

“We are very pleased that a piece of Bavarian history that we thought was lost has resurfaced and will soon be able to return to its rightful place,” said Bernd Schreiber, president of the Bavarian Administration of State Palaces, Gardens and Lakes in a statement from the San Antonio Museum of Art .

The bust is believed to represent either a son of Pompey the Great who was defeated in battle by Julius Caesar, or Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, a Roman commander whose forces once occupied German territory.

The San Antonio Museum of Art will display the bust through May 2023, which was important to Ms. Young.

“He’s been hidden for 70 to 80 years; I think he deserves some attention,” she said. “And I think he deserves some attention in Texas.”

She donated the bust to the museum last month, leaving her only a 3D printed model of the piece, which she keeps in her living room.

“It’s a little bit difficult because that’s going to be probably the coolest thing I’ve ever found and it’s over,” Ms. Young said. “But there is always something else to find. As an antique dealer there is always something different.”

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