When roaming through Goodwill, most people try to look for hidden gems, small treasures hidden amongst the piles of stuff, and usually found being sold for a decent price. This is exactly what happened to one woman in Texas.
Laura Young was shopping at Goodwill in Austin in August 2018 when she found a marble bust. The 52 pound bust piqued her interest, and she told CNN: “I was just looking for anything that looked interesting.”
She immediately knew that she wanted to buy it. She said: “It was a bargain at $35, there was no reason not to buy it.” Young had been re-selling antique pieces she found since 2011.
As she always did, she did some research on her antique find in order to see if it held any significance and was worth anything. This is when she discovered the shocking news.
It turns out that the bust dates back to ancient Rome. After contacting auction houses to inspect the piece, she eventually ended up at Sotheby’s, who were able to confirm that it was from ancient Rome and dates back to 2000 years ago.
The specialist found the bust listed in a digital database, where there were photos of it from the 1930s in Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, Germany.
4 years after Young found the bust at that Goodwill, it ended up at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). A postdoctoral curatorial fellow at the museum, Lynley McAlpine, told CNN that she believes that the bust is of Roman military leader Sextus Pompey, the son of Pompey the Great, a former ally of Julius Caesar.
The bust was commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria and was kept at a replica of a Pompeii home where it was on display until WWII. It disappeared up until Young unearthed it at Goodwill in 2018.
It turns out that the bust, as well as other artifacts, were moved into storage away from Pompejanum before it was bombed and completely destroyed. The piece was then stolen at a certain point.
McAlpine shared: “It seems like sometime between when it was put into storage until about 1950, someone found it and took it. Since it ended up in the US it seems likely that some American that was stationed there got their hands on it.”
Young is still surprised and curious about how it ended up at Goodwill in the first place. She tried to trace back the person who donated it to the store on Craigslist but she couldn’t find anyone.
She said: “I would really love it if whoever donated it came forward. It’s most likely not the original person who took him, but would still like to know the story.”
The bust it on loan contractually at SAMA, but technically it is still owned by Germany, as it was stolen from storage.
Young said that she’s happy and proud that her Goodwill find is on display at SAMA.
In May 2023, the bust will be returned to Germany where it will once again be displayed in the Pompejanum.