Roman bust bought at second-hand store for HK$275 turns out to be 2,000-year-old relic

  • The bust was owned by King Ludwig of Bavaria, now part of Germany, in the late 1800s and disappeared during the Second World War
  • Nicknamed ‘Dennis Reynolds’ after a character from the TV show ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ the piece will be lent to a museum before being returned
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A woman from the US state of Texas has handed in a 2,000-year-old Roman bust she bought four years ago in a second-hand store for US$34.99 (HK$275).

In a post to her Instagram followers, Laura Young said she found the historic 52-pound (23.6kg) marble relic at the Far West Goodwill in Austin, Texas, in 2018.

Young told a local radio station that after doing some googling, she contacted an auction house, which confirmed the piece was an original bust.

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According to art law firm Amineddoleh & Associates, who advised Young on the discovery, the bust was determined to have been owned by King Ludwig of Bavaria in the 1800s, who displayed it in the courtyard of Pompejandum, a replica of a courtyard in the city of Pompeii, Italy.

Pompejandum was shelled by US allied forces in 1944 and 1945, after which some items, including the bust, disappeared.

Young named the bust “Dennis Reynolds,” after the narcissistic, well-groomed co-star of the television comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He was one of a collection of busts owned by Young.

The San Antonio Museum of Art is temporarily displaying Dennis Reynolds until he is returned to Germany next year. Photo: San Antonio Museum of Art via AP

“He was attractive, he was cold, he was aloof. I couldn’t really have him. He was difficult,” Young said. “So, yeah, my nickname for him was Dennis.”

Young said that Amineddoleh & Associates eventually sealed a deal that would find a permanent home for Dennis. The deal included a small finders’ fee for Young, which would remain confidential.

On its website, Amineddoleh & Associates said that as the looted piece was not sold by the museum or the German government, it was still the property of the Bavarian State, and that Young would have made “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on the open market for the piece.

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“Immediately, I was like, ‘OK, I cannot keep him and I also cannot sell him,’” Young told The New York Times.

She added: “It was extremely bittersweet, to say the least. But I only have control over what I can control, and art theft, looting during a war, is a war crime. I can’t be a party to it.”

The bust will be lent for one year to the San Antonio Museum of Art before being returned to the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes in Bavaria, Germany.

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