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This 2,000-year-old marble head found at an Austin Goodwill is going back to Germany

A woman with red hair poses next to a marble sculpture of a man
Courtesy Laura Young
Laura Young, with the 2,000 year old bust she found at a Goodwill store in Austin.

When we last met this 2,000-year-old marble sculpture of a human head — affectionately nicknamed "Dennis" — he had been found in a Goodwill store on Far West Boulevard, discovered to be missing for 70 years from a German museum and put on display in a museum in San Antonio.

Now, this chapter in his epic story is coming to an end. Sunday is the last day the sculpture can be seen at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

For Laura Young, who bought the head from Goodwill in 2018, part of her is glad it's over.

"It'll be bittersweet," she said. "There might be some relief [because] I can maybe focus on ... not him."

A sculpture of a human head with a seat belt around it.
Laura Young
The sculpture Laura Young found in the Goodwill, buckled up to go to her house.

Young paid $34.99 (plus tax) for Dennis, buckled him in the car, got him home and realized what she had. She hired a lawyer and spent years negotiating with the German government to send him home.

The bust — thought to depict a Roman nobleman named Drusus Germanicus — dates back to the first century. It was bought by the German king Ludwig I in the 1840s and put on display in a replica of a Pompeiian villa in the city of Aschaffenburg. The city — and the museum — were bombed during World War II, and the head went missing.

It's possible that an American soldier found — or looted — the sculpture from Aschaffenburg after the battle.

Then it made its way to Austin and, eventually, the Goodwill on Far West.

But Young couldn't simply put the sculpture in a box and mail it to Germany. Repatriating stolen art is extremely complicated. It took her and her lawyer, Leila Amineddoleh, years to come to an agreement with the German government.

Finally, in 2022, they did. That's when the world learned about this remarkable story. KUT was first to report it, along with The Art Newspaper. But the story was soon picked up by The New York Times, BBC and outlets as far away as Australia. All of this sudden attention took a toll on Young.

"When the story went viral, I didn't know what was happening, but it was me having a panic attack, and it was from me seeing myself on The Today Show," she said.

But Young had grown attached to the head, which she named "Dennis Reynolds" after a narcissistic character on the TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

“He was attractive, he was cold, he was aloof. I couldn't really have him. He was difficult," she said last year. "So, yeah, my nickname for him was Dennis.”

Watching Dennis leave her house to go to San Antonio was tough, but now that he's leaving the country and headed back to Germany, it's different.

"I maybe am likely in denial about it, or maybe I've come to terms with it because he's been out of the house for a year," Young said.

Dennis will go on to have more adventures, adding more stories to his long, eventful life.

Young says she plans to visit him in Germany later this year. Of course, there's a chance he might not be on display by the time she gets there.

"He's been a little bit difficult these past couple of years," she said. "So, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some additional difficulties on the European end."

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Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at mlargey@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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