Europe or Bust
San Antonio Museum of Art sends viral ancient artifact back to Europe this May
An ancient Roman bust is heading back to Europe: Recovered in a Texas Goodwill store by Austin-based art collector Laura Young, the bust is rounding out a year at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) before heading back to Germany on May 21.
Dating somewhere from the first century B.C. to the early first century A.D., the marble bust first made headlines in May 2022. Young discovered it in 2018, later tracing the sculpture to the collection of King Ludwig I of Bavaria thanks to international cooperation between SAMA and the Bavarian Administration of State Owned Palaces, Gardens, and Lakes.
Experts believe the bust could portray a son of Pompey the Great (106-48 BC), who was defeated in civil war by Julius Caesar. It was likely once installed in the courtyard of the Pompejanum, a full-scale replica of a villa from Pompeii built by the Bavarian king in Aschaffenburg, Germany, in 1840-1848.
Missing from that collection since World War II, the sculpture's exact journey from Germany to a Texas thrift store remains a mystery. Allied bombers did target Aschaffenburg in January 1944 during World War II, and the bust likely disappeared after the war — possibly transported by a returning soldier.
During its time on view at SAMA, the bust has been visited by thousands of guests, notably including Archduke Carl Christian of Austria and his son, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and others. San Antonio visitors will be able to view the remarkable artifact at SAMA through May 21, 2023.