Antiques Roadshow has conditioned us to believe that every bit of slightly decent-looking thrift shop or yard sale junk is actually a fortune just waiting to be claimed. This isn’t usually the case, but sometimes a find comes along to make sure that the hoarder will never be totally be cured of their habits. Sometimes a find comes along like, for instance, a $35 Goodwill sculpture that’s turned out to be an ancient Roman artifact.
An article from Artnet tells us that Laura Young, the owner of Texas’ Temple Of Vintage, bought a marble bust from a Goodwill in Austin back in 2018 for $34.99 USD. Young held onto the sculpture for years, believing that the “worn features and natural gravitas” of the man it depicts hinted at an unique provenance.
After finally having the bust examined by a Sotheby’s consultant, her hunch was justified. The $35 sculpture, according to the consultant, dates back to Rome’s Julio-Claudian era and likely depicts son of Pompey The Great and Bellum Siculum military leader Sextus Pompey.
The bust’s journey from ancient Rome to modern Texas is believed to have been helped along by a 19th century Bavarian museum and an American soldier stationed overseas during the Second World War.
Artnet writes that the “earliest known record of the portrait is in the 1833 inventory of King Ludwig I Of Bavaria,” where it was included in a “full-scale replica of a Pompeii villa built for enthusiasts to study ancient culture.” The replica villa was bombed during World War II and the bust has been missing ever since, most likely having been scooped up by a soldier who, it seems, spent some of their time in Texas.
Young has given the sculpture to the San Antonio Museum Of Art, where it will remain until next year before being shipped off to Germany once more. While she was happy to hear that she’d found such a noteworthy item at a Goodwill, Young says it was “bittersweet” to learn she couldn’t “keep or sell” her find.
“Either way, I’m glad I got to be a small part of [its] long and complicated history,” she continued, “and he looked great in the house while I had him.”
Sadly for Sextus Pompey, executed for opposing the rulers of the Roman Republic, even sculptures created to memorialize him can’t seem to get much respect. Not only has the bust been lost for decades, but, when it’s resurfaced again, it’s documented through overwhelmingly pitiful photos like this.
If the sculpture is indeed meant to depict Sextus Pompey, we hope the sad marble bastard gets to enjoy a little more dignity in its next resting place.
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