Ancient Roman Statue Found For Sale in Texas Goodwill

It's now on display in San Antonio

San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art.
Zereshk - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

If you were thinking about buying an artifact that dated back to the time of ancient Rome, how would you go about purchasing it? Every once in a while, a major auction house will hold some sort of event at which rare artifacts are up for sale. But as it turns out, every once in a while your local Goodwill might end up with a really great deal on an ancient artifact.

No, this isn’t the subject of a comedic sketch with a “That belongs in a museum” punchline. It’s what one Laura Young discovered in a Goodwill in Austin one day in 2018. Young, a dealer in antiques, noticed something intriguing about a marble bust that was on sale there for $34.99. As The New York Times reports, she purchased it, took it home and did some digging into its history.

After making contact with the auction houses Sotheby’s and Bonhams, she learned that the bust she suspected to have origins in ancient Rome did, in fact, have its origin in ancient Rome. But that wasn’t the only aspect of its history that proved intriguing — or controversial.

As the Times reports, the history of the bust involved it being owned by a Bavarian king and being displayed in the town of Aschaffenburg, which took heavy damage in World War II. How it got from there to Texas remains unknown, though Young’s lawyer Leila A. Amineddoleh told the Times of her suspicion that an Allied soldier ended up recovering it from there and taking it to Texas.

The bust is now on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art until May of 2023, at which point it will return to Bavaria. It’s had a complex journey, and it certainly seems like even more of its story is waiting to be told.

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