After taking the bust home, strapped to a seat belt in the front seat of her car, she contacted two auction houses, Bonhams and Sotheby’s, who both confirmed her suspicions were correct: the bust was from ancient Rome.
Young was on vacation celebrating her 40th birthday when she got the email from Bonhams. She immediately wanted to go home.
“He was at my house, alone,” she said.
But subsequent research, verified by the Bavarian government, soon confirmed that Young would be unable to sell the piece, fulfilling the fantasy of someone who once haunted Goodwill stores and yard sales for priceless treasure.
At some point before 1833, the bust had been acquired by Ludwig I, a Bavarian king, who displayed it in the courtyard of Pompejanum, his replica of a Roman villa at Pompeii, in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg, according to Young’s lawyer, Leila A Amineddoleh.
The Pompejanum was badly damaged by Allied bombing raids in 1944 and 1945, and while some objects survived, others disappeared, Amineddoleh said.
The looting of art by the Nazis has received a lot of attention. But because the bust ended up in Texas, it’s likely a U.S. soldier stole it or traded it for it after the war, Amineddoleh said.
That meant Young was not the rightful owner, as Germany had never sold the piece or given up on its title, Amineddoleh said. Young said Goodwill was also unable to provide answers about the bust’s origins.
“I immediately thought, ‘Okay, I can’t keep it and I can’t sell it,'” said Young. “It was extremely bittersweet to say the least. But I can only control what I can control, and art theft, looting during a war, is a war crime. I can’t be a party to it.”
So Young made an agreement to return the bust to Bavaria. In return, she receives only a “small finder’s fee,” which Amineddoleh did not disclose.
Bernd Schreiber, president of the Bavarian Administration of State Palaces, Gardens and Lakes, said: “We are delighted that a piece of Bavarian history that we thought was lost has made it back and will soon be able to return to its rightful location. statement from the San Antonio Museum of Art.
The bust is thought to represent either a son of Pompey the Great, who was defeated in battle by Julius Caesar, or Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, a Roman commander whose troops once occupied German territory.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times†
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