$35 Bust Bought From Goodwill Is A Valuable Marble Work From Ancient Rome
By Alexa Heah, 06 May 2022
Imagine the surprise when Laura Young, owner of Temple of Vintage, was told the US$34.99 marble bust she had purchased at Goodwill four years ago was actually identified as an antique from the Julio-Claudian era in Rome.
Despite purchasing the sculpture at such a steal, Young was convinced that it was a special item, seeking out specialists at museums and auction houses to ascertain the provenance of the object. At last, Jörg Deterling, a consultant at Sotheby’s, finally confirmed that it was likely to be a depiction of military leader Sextus Pompey, who had taken on Julius Caesar (and lost) in a civil war.
According to Artnet News, this great figure from history had attempted to avenge the death of his father, Pompey the Great, but was eventually executed when he was unable to defeat the mighty forces of Caesar.
Experts found that the earliest mention of the bust dated back to an 1833 inventory of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, and was once displayed in the Pompejanum, a full-scale replica of a Pompeii villa in Aschaffenburg.
However, when the villa was bombed during World War II, it’s possible that an American soldier had taken the bust home with him, no wiser to the immense piece of history he was sitting on, leading it to end up in a Goodwill sale.
Upon receiving the news, Young said it was “bittersweet” as she knew that she could no longer keep or sell the prized object. Nevertheless, since being in touch with German authorities, she said she’s pleased to have played a small role in its “long and complicated history.”
“And he looked great in the house while I had him,” she cheekily added.
As per ARTnews, the bust is now slated to spend a year on exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which supported the reunion of the item, before it returns to the hands of Germany’s Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens, and Lakes, where it will be installed under a plaque bearing Young’s name.
During its time at the Texas museum, interim chief curator Jessica Powers will set out to identify the subject of the work, and could confirm if it bears resemblance to Sextus of Pompey.
“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 persevere the arts,” remarked Emily Ballew Neff, The Kelso Director.
Could the mystery of the looted bust finally be solved all these years later?
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