Austin, TX

Missing Ancient Roman Bust Sold at Goodwill for $34.99

Andrei Tapalaga
The Roman bust after was bought by Laura YoungSan Antonio Museum of Art

The Roman times were considered the golden age for art that came in different forms. Sculptures, many of which have been lost in wars and different natural disasters are the rarest pieces of art from that period of time and it is always interesting to see some found. Within the archives of museums and auction house deposits, such pieces of art can easily get lost, but not forgotten. 

Something similar happened to this ancient Roman bust that had been missing for decades but has been found in a Goodwill store from Austin, Texas on sale for $34.99. An art collector by the name of Laura Young has a hobby of digging through Goodwills and other thrift stores to find rare and undervalued pieces of art. 

Young discovered the bust hidden away beneath a table, forgotten in the corner of the store with a price tag on its face. The founder even took a picture after purchasing the bust of it placed securely in a seatbelt. Young had wondered what is the origin of this bust as it looked very old and tarnished. So she got in touch with experts in art history from the University of Texas. 

Even they were not able to identify the origin of the bust, so she turned to experts in art from auction houses. Jörg Deterling, a consultant for the fine arts brokerage Sotheby’s, had identified that the bust is believed to be of Roman origin from the 1st century and it was once in a German museum many decades ago. 

The bust has not been forgotten despite missing for decades because these usually come as part of collections. Roman sculptures would usually craft sets of busts and various sculptures as part of a collection. San Antonio Museum of Art believes that the bust is a depiction of a son of Pompey the Great. The experts from The Art Newspaper believe that the bust depicts Roman commander Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus

The records available for this bust go back more than 200 years as it has been noted to belong in the art collection of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. The nose of the bust looks glued back together because it had suffered damage during the Allied bombing in World War II. How exactly did this bust end up from a museum in Germany to Austin Texas is unknown. 

Experts from the San Antonio Museum of Art consider that the bust may have been taken by soldiers who were sent to Germany during the Cold War. The director of the museum says that the journey this bust had taken has not only enriched its history but also made it a lot more valuable. 

“It’s a great story whose plot includes the World War II-era, international diplomacy, art of the ancient Mediterranean, thrift shop sleuthing, historic Bavarian royalty, and the thoughtful stewardship of those who care for and preserve the arts, whether as individuals or institutions,” (Quote by Emily Ballew Neff, Kelso director at the museum)

the Roman bust will be on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art from now until May 21, 2023. After that period, it will finally return to Germany where it originated from.

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