For thrift store aficionados, finding a rare or valuable vintage item on the cheap is a huge thrill.
But what if you find something that dates back thousands of years?
That’s what happened to one Texas art collector, when she plucked a marble bust out from under a table at her local Goodwill store and bought it for $35.
Laura Young of Austin, Texas, accidentally stumbled upon the bust in 2018 while out hunting for vintage items to resell.
What she didn’t know at the time, however, was that the bust originally resided inside a full-scale model of a villa from Pompeii in Aschaffenburg, Germany, according to the San Antonio Museum of Art.
The villa, known as Pompejanum, is a replica of an ancient villa that was built in Germany by King Ludwig I of Bavaria during the mid-1800s.
The bust once sat in the courtyard of the Pompejanum, but the villa was badly damaged in World War II by Allied bombers and the bust disappeared soon after.
It is unclear exactly how the bust made its way to the U.S., but the museum thinks it might have been brought back by an American soldier at the end of the Cold War.
Hilariously, Young told the New York Times that she named the bust “Dennis Reynolds,” after the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character — a serial narcissist who possesses off-the-charts vanity.
Young described the sculpture as “a very difficult, cold, aloof, emotionless man that caused some problems for me.”
Young told The Art Newspaper that her experience with antiques and vintage items led her to believe the bust was likely valuable.
She strapped the bust into her car using the seatbelt, took it home, and began to Google Roman artifacts.
Several phone calls to auction houses later and it was confirmed: she was housing an ancient piece of art.
Because the piece was stolen from Germany, Young was unable to claim title as rightful owner of the bust, nor was she able to sell it for a significant windfall.
“It was extremely bittersweet, to say the least. But I only have control over what I can control, and art theft, looting during a war, is a war crime. I can’t be a party to it,” Young told The Times.
She will, however, receive a finder’s fee for saving the artifact and returning it to its rightful country.
The 52-pound bust will first go on display for a year at the San Antonio Museum of Art before being shipped home to Bavaria.
According to the museum, the bust may portray a son of Pompey the Great (106–48 BCE), who was defeated in the Roman civil war by Julius Caesar.
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