Antiques dealer bought priceless 2,000-year-old Roman bust at thrift store for $35

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Antiques dealer bought priceless 2,000-year-old Roman bust at thrift store for $35

An antiques dealer made the find of a lifetime at a Texas Goodwill store: a 2,000-year-old priceless work of Roman art that she scooped up for a measly $35.

Laura Young, of Austin, found the 52-pound Roman bust at the thrift store in her hometown in 2018 and figured it was worth such a modest investment.

“He looked Roman. He looked old,” Young told the San Antonio Express-News. “In the sunlight, it looked like something that could be very, very special.”

Young’s hunch had proven correct – a Sotheby’s consultant later determined her extraordinary find to be a marble Julio-Claudian-era Roman bust that dates from the late first century B.C. to the early first century A.D., the newspaper reported.

The bust – named “Portrait of a Man” – went on display Wednesday at the San Antonio Museum of Art, where it’ll stay until next May. The ancient work of art will then be returned to Germany, where it disappeared following World War II.

“It had once stood in the town of Aschaffenburg, Germany, in a full-scale model of a house from Pompeii, called the Pompejanum, built [by] Ludwig I of Bavaria,” the museum said on its website.

The bust “disappeared” after Allied bombers had targeted Aschaffenburg during WWII and seriously damaged the Pompejanum, according to the museum.

A Sotheby’s consultant later determined her extraordinary find to be a marble Julio-Claudian-era Roman bust that dates from the late first century B.C. to the early first century A.D.
A Sotheby’s consultant later determined her extraordinary find to be a marble Julio-Claudian-era Roman bust that dates from the late first century B.C. to the early first century A.D.
Instagram/@templeofvintage
The owner said she ultimately notified the German government of her historic discovery and made arrangements to return it to the Bavarian Administration of State-owned Palaces.
The owner said she ultimately notified the German government of her historic discovery and made arrangements to return it to the Bavarian Administration of State-owned Palaces.
Instagram/@templeofvintage
The bust – named “Portrait of a Man” – went on display Wednesday at the San Antonio Museum of Art, where it’ll stay until next May.
The bust – named “Portrait of a Man” – went on display Wednesday at the San Antonio Museum of Art, where it’ll stay until next May.
Instagram/@templeofvintage

A returning US soldier “most likely” brought the bust back to Texas, where it remained unknown until Young’s fateful find four years ago.

Young said she ultimately notified the German government of her historic discovery and made arrangements to return it to the Bavarian Administration of State-owned Palaces. But not until Texans and art lovers across the country get a chance to see her priceless find.

“He’d been hidden for 70 to 80 years, I thought he deserved to be seen and studied,” Young told the Express-News.

Laura Young found the 52-pound Roman bust at the thrift store in her hometown in 2018 and figured it was worth such a modest investment.
Laura Young found the 52-pound Roman bust at the thrift store in her hometown in 2018 and figured it was worth such a modest investment.
Instagram/@templeofvintage
The bust “disappeared” after Allied bombers had targeted Aschaffenburg during WWII and seriously damaged the Pompejanum, according to the museum.
The bust “disappeared” after Allied bombers had targeted Aschaffenburg during WWII and seriously damaged the Pompejanum, according to the museum.
Instagram/@templeofvintage

The bust likely depicts Sextus Pompey, who dedicated his life to avenging his father’s death, a Roman art specialist at the San Antonio Museum of Art told the newspaper.

Pompey the Great, Sextus’ father, had fought a civil war against his former ally, Julius Caesar. Pompey then fled to Egypt after his army was defeated and was assassinated there, according to the report.

“It’s a portrait of an outlaw, a sort of enemy of the state,” San Antonio Museum of Art curatorial fellow Lynley McAlpine told the newspaper. “It’s unusual to have something like this. It’s also interesting that someone preserved it and had it in their collection as a personal enemy to the emperor. That could be dangerous to display something like that.”

The bust likely depicts Sextus Pompey, who dedicated his life to avenging his father’s death.
The bust likely depicts Sextus Pompey, who dedicated his life to avenging his father’s death.
Instagram/@templeofvintage
Pompey the Great, Sextus’ father, had fought a civil war against his former ally, Julius Caesar. Pompey then fled to Egypt after his army was defeated and was assassinated..
Pompey the Great, Sextus’ father, had fought a civil war against his former ally, Julius Caesar. Pompey then fled to Egypt after his army was defeated and was assassinated.
Instagram/@templeofvintage

Young has also detailed her four-year journey with the bust on her Instagram page for her online shop, Temple of Vintage.

“Yes, I got him at the Far West Goodwill here in Austin,” she wrote Wednesday. “Yes, he was $35. He’s on loan with the San Antonio Museum of Art until next year.”

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