Goodwill: How did an ancient Roman sculpture end up in a Texas store?


Laura Young was shopping at a Goodwill in Austin, Texas in 2018 when she found a sculpture of a human head on sale for $34.99. She bought the sculpture and it stayed home until she contacted a London auction house that identified the piece as a lost ancient Roman bust, according to NBC News.

How did an ancient Roman bust end up in a Goodwill in Texas? The whereabouts of the bust are still unknown, but it is highly likely that it was transported to the United States by an American soldier after World War II, according to the New York Times.

  • The bust was traced to Germany in the 19th century, as part of the art collection of a Bavarian king, according to The New York Times.
  • The San Antonio Museum of Art reported that the piece was in a life-size replica of a house in Pompeii, called the Pompejanum. During World War II, Allied bombers severely damaged the house and the sculpture disappeared.
  • It is believed that an American soldier brought the bust to the United States, where it was unknown until it appeared in Goodwill in 2018, according to NPR Austin.
  • “We can guess that he stayed in someone’s house for decades. Maybe the person who took it died or maybe they gave it away. But somehow someone decided they didn’t want it anymore and dropped it off at Goodwill,” according to NPR.

Whose bust is this? An auction house Young contacted was able to trace the piece in a catalog of German museum objects to the 1920s and 1930s, according to NPR Austin.

  • The catalog listed the bust as a likeness to a man named Drusus Germanicus. Other experts believe it could be Sextus Pompey, the son of Roman general Pompey the Great, according to NBC News.
  • The bust likely dates to the late first century BC or early first century AD, according to NBC.

What will happen to the bust? The bust will be on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art for a year, according to the museum’s website.

  • As Germany never sold the bust or relinquished the title, it did not belong to Young. After the San Antonio exhibit ends, the bust will return to its home in Bavaria, The New York Times said.
  • In exchange for the bust, Young will receive a “finder’s fee,” The Times reported.
  • Before sending the piece to the museum, Young had a 3D model of the sculpture printed, which now sits in his home where the original once stood, according to NPR Austin.

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