A centuries-old Roman marble bust believed to depict an enemy of Julius Caesar, which may have been looted by an American soldier stationed in Germany after World War II, went on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art this week after an art collector bought the piece for $35 at an Austin Goodwill and decided to research its past.
After buying the bust in 2018, Laura Young reached out to experts and art history experts and auction house specialists in hopes of learning where it came from.
Sotheby’s consultant Jörg Deterling first identified the bust as having once belonged to King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who commissioned a full-size replica of a Pompeii villa in Aschaffenburg, Germany, to house his vast collection of ancient artifacts and to create a place for his subjects to study ancient art.
The marble portrait stayed on display in Ludwig’s Pompejanum for nearly a century until the museum was bombed by the Allies during World War II and the bust went missing.
The bust was most likely brought to Texas by an American soldier returning home from being stationed in Germany, according to SAMA, which noted the US Army established multiple military installations in Aschaffenburg after the war, some of which remained open until the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Deterling helped Young contact German authorities to alert them of the bust’s whereabouts, and after it was authenticated by the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens, and Lakes, the parties worked out a deal to return it to Germany next year after a yearlong display at SAMA,
In a statement, Young said learning of the bust’s history was “bittersweet” because she knew she would not be able to keep or sell a stolen object, though she added she’s happy to “be a small part of [its]
long and complicated history.”
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