When Laura Young bought an old bust from a charity store in Texas four years ago, she couldn’t have known what was coming next.
For just $34.99 (£28), the white marble sculpture seemed like a bargain, so she put it in the passenger seat of her car, strapped it in and drove it home.
Ms. Young is an antiques dealer and regularly visits charity shops in search of treasures, but there was something about this one that seemed different.
She told the San Antonio Express-News: “He looked Roman.
“He looked old.
“In the sunlight, it looked like something that could be very, very special.”
It turned out that the bust dated to a time between the end of the first century BC and the beginning of the first century AD, and that it had disappeared from Germany after the Second World War.
Lynley McAlpine, postdoctoral curator and specialist in Roman art at the San Antonio Museum, told the Express-News that the bust was likely a marble portrait of Sextus Pompey.
Sextus spent his life trying to avenge the death of his father, who waged a civil war against his former ally Julius Caesar.
Pompey’s army was defeated and he fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated.
Sextus also met a violent end – he was executed after fighting Marc Antony and Augustus.
The bust made its first official appearance in 1833, when it was listed in the art collection of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
The collection was exhibited in the German city of Aschaffenburg.
In January 1944, the city was bombarded by the allies and the building housing the collection was badly damaged.
The bust disappeared and somehow made it to Texas, possibly brought home by an American soldier.
Stephennie Mulder, professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin, told KUT radio station: “We know that many objects [in the museum] were either destroyed during the Allied bombing campaign or subsequently looted.
“So unfortunately in this case it could have been an American soldier who looted it himself or bought it from someone who had looted the item.”
It resurfaced in the charity store, where Ms Young found it in 2018, although store owners said they were unsure who donated it.
Ms Young, owner of antiques business Temple Of Vintage, realized after the purchase that the art had likely been looted, so she began researching how it could be returned to Germany.
With the help of a New York lawyer specializing in international art law, she informed the German government and arrangements were made for him to visit the Bavarian Palaces, Gardens and Lakes Administration .
It is on loan to the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas until May of next year.
Ms Young said it had been exciting to see the bust in the museum, but also bittersweet.
She told the Express-News: “I liked him.
“I got attached to him in our house, right there in the hallway.
“You could see his reflection on TV.
“He became part of the house.”
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