2,000-year-old stolen artifact heading back to Germany after Texas woman bought it at Goodwill for $35

Drusus Germanicus is on display at San Antonio Museum of Art until May

"Portrait of a man," Roman, late 1st century B.C.-early 1st century A.D., Marble, Lent by the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes. (San Antonio Museum of Art)

SAN ANTONIO – A first-century marble bust found by a Texas woman at a Goodwill in Austin a few years ago is about to head back to Germany.

The bust made headlines in May 2022 after Laura Young, an antique dealer, discovered that the bust she bought in 2018 for $34.99 was actually a 2,000-year-old, 50-pound piece of history.

Young hired a lawyer and after four years was able to work out a deal that would get Germanicus back to Germany. The exact terms of the deal were kept confidential but San Antonio managed to score a victory in the process.

Drusus Germanicus, the name of the Roman general who the bust is modeled after, is currently on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art but will be returning to Germany in May. The bust dates back to the late 1st century BC to the early 1st century AD.

Visitors to the museum will be able to see the news-making artifact through May 21 before Germanicus makes his way back home.

Research revealed that the sculpture was once in a catalog of items from a German museum in the 1920s and 1930s and once belonged to the collection of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Wreckage of the Pompejanum’s courtyard after the bombing of Aschaffenburg in 1944. (Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes)

How Germanicus ended up in a Goodwill in Austin is still a mystery but the bust was confirmed to be in a museum collection during World War II in Aschaffenburg, Germany — the same place where a battle between Nazis and the U.S. Army took place.

“So unfortunately in this case, it might have been a U.S. soldier who either looted it himself or purchased it from someone who had looted the object,” Stephennie Mulder, an art history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told KUT.org.

The next part is speculative, but at some point, the bust traveled to the U.S. and ended up in someone’s house where it sat for decades. Then someone decided they didn’t want it anymore, and it was donated to Goodwill, where a $34.99 price tag was stuck to Germanicus’ marble cheek.

Young would be the next person to house the 2,000-year-old art before Germanicus temporarily went to SAMA.

“It’ll be a little bittersweet to see him in the museum, but he needs to go home. He wasn’t supposed to be here,” Young said.

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, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and others, according to a press release.

“By agreement with the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens, and Lakes, the portrait will remain on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art until its return to Germany in 2023,” according to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

The portrait displayed in the courtyard of the Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, 1931. (Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes)

About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.