Shopping at thrift stores may be enjoyable, a great way to get deals on used goods, and even a great place to find some unique, vintage stuff.
Yet after purchasing a work of art that turned out to be a 2,000-year-old Roman portrait, one woman made the bargain of a lifetime!
Laura Young, an art and antiques dealer from Austin, Texas, frequents her neighbourhood Goodwill in search of unique items. But even she was unable to foresee what she would be holding as she took up a marble bust that had been offered to her for just $34.99.
He appeared Roman. Laura said to the San Antonio Express-News, “He looked ancient. It appeared to be something that might be very, very special when in the sunlight.
Following some investigation, she was shocked to learn that her $35 prize was actually a portrait that was painted between the first century BC and the first century AD.
According to the San Antonio Museum of Art, the object was once part of a scale replica of the Pompejanum, a home in Pompeii, in Aschaffenburg, Germany. KUT claims that the German monarch Ludwig I, who had a fascination with Pompeii and desired a copy to house his Roman art, ordered it.
One of the pieces of art kept there was Laura’s statue, a portrayal of a man by the name of Drusus Germanicus. So how did it get to Texas without anyone noticing? Most certainly, World War II is the solution.
Pompejanum reportedly sustained significant damage during a conflict between the US Army and Nazi Germany, and it is possible that an American soldier stole the artwork or purchased it from a looter and smuggled it back to the States.
There isn’t much information about how Germanicus got to the Texas Goodwill, but the fact that it might have been a stolen painting from another nation complicated matters for Laura, who spent three years working with an art lawyer to return the painting to its legitimate owners.
In the interim, Laura found a home for the 2,000-year-old bust in her apartment, where she got fond of the head and gave him the nickname “Dennis” after a character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
She told Express-News, “I grew attached to him in our house, right there in the foyer. “On the television, you could see his reflection. He assimilated with the household.
But eventually a deal was reached to put the portrait back where it belonged. The sculpture will be returned to Germany, but in order to extend his stay in Texas a little bit, the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces consented to loan it to the San Antonio Museum of Art for a year.
Laura said it was “bittersweet” to leave with the statue after having it in her home for so long, but she was happy to be a “little part of its long and difficult history,” adding that he “looked fantastic in the house while I had him.”
She has been able to visit the statue in his new temporary residence thanks to the fact that it is still conveniently close by.
“Seeing him in a museum was really, really wonderful,” she told Express-News. He had been residing in our living room for more than three years, so it was somewhat surreal.
He had been kept secret for 70 or 80 years, so I believed he merited to be observed and researched.
This is undoubtedly one of the nicest thrift shop finds we’ve ever heard of, even if Laura was very disappointed that she couldn’t keep or sell the bust. Antiquing is all about experiencing what it was like to be a fascinating part of history.
“It’s a great story whose plot includes the World War II era, international diplomacy, artwork from the ancient Mediterranean, detective work in thrift stores, historical Bavarian royalty, and the thoughtful stewardship of those who care for and preserve the arts,” said Emily Ballew Neff of the San Antonio Museum of Art, according to 12 News.
And Laura will always have something to remember her old friend by since, as she revealed to KUT, she made a 3D model before donating it to the museum so she could keep a duplicate of it in her apartment.
Such a score! We’re happy that Laura was able to return this historic work of art to its proper location, and she’ll always have some wonderful memories and an incredible tale to share.
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