An antiques dealer was taken by surprise when she found a 2,000-year-old Roman bust, which should have been priceless, for just $35 at a thrift store in Texas. It is estimated that the piece was imported from Germany during World War II.
In an interview with the local newspaper San Antonio Express-News, Laura Young found the Roman bust in a store in the city of Austin in 2018. She fell in love with the object and did not think twice about buying it.
“He looked Roman, he looked old,” he said. ‘In the sunlight, it looked like something that could be very special’.
Even so, Laura’s professional instinct was that coming across an old and valuable piece under the circumstances was too good to be true. So she contacted art experts at the University of Texas, as well as other collectors and auctioneers across the country to ascertain the authenticity of the object and its origin.
One of the experts consulted, whose identity was not revealed, confirmed that it was indeed an ancient Roman artifact, but an expert from Sotheby’s auction company, Jorg Deterling, has discovered the time of its manufacture, which dates back to the late 1st century BC until the beginning of the 1st century AD
The bust, called “Portrait of a Man”, was displayed on Wednesday at the San Antonio Museum, where it will remain until May 2023. The relic will travel back to Germany, where it will reappear for the first time since the end. of the Second World War.
“He has already been to the city of Aschaffenburg, Germany, in a full-scale model of a Pompeian house, called the Pompejanum, built by King Ludwig I of Bavaria,” the San Antonio Museum of Art explained in a statement.
Antiquity disappeared after Aschaffenburg, the German city where it remained for decades, was heavily shaken by bombing by Allied forces during World War II, including the Pompejanum.
Investigators believe the work likely ended up in the United States because an American soldier returned home with it after the war. The soldier must have resided in Texas, where the work remained unknown until four years ago.
Lara Young said she alerted German authorities as soon as the antiquity’s provenance was confirmed. She made arrangements for the artwork to return to Bavaria in May of the next year, after art lovers from all corners of the US had a chance to see the bust with their own eyes.
“He was in hiding for 70 to 80 years, I thought he deserved to be seen and studied,” he declared.
a fragment of history
Although never confirmed, the bust likely depicts Sextus Pompey, a Roman military leader, who throughout his life defended his father, Pompey the Great, against Julius Caesar and his supporters during the last civil wars of the Roman Republic.
Pompey the Great, Sextus’ father, was killed in Egypt after fleeing Roman territory following defeat in a battle against his former ally, Julius Caesar, who became dictator of Rome from 49 BC until his assassination in 44. B.C
Laura Young believes she would never have found antiquity if she hadn’t gotten into the art selling business in 2011, when she started her company Temple of Vintage.
She confessed that it will be difficult to say goodbye to the work, which remained in her home for a long time, but she feels even more satisfied to know its true story and to see it in the museum within reach of all.
“It was really moving to see him in a museum. And also kind of surreal because he’s been in my living room for over three years. I got attached to him in my house, right at the entrance. He’s become part of the family,” he joked. .