The bust of Antoninus Pius. / SUR

Forgotten, lost, stolen, recovered and sold: the story behind the bust of Antoninus Pius

The bust used to belong to a Malaga family, the Bolins

I. G. / R. S. MALAGA.

The story of the bust of Antoninus Pius and its journey to the Museum of Malaga has had a happy ending, but it could have been a lot worse. The sculpture has suffered a series of adventures which make its acquisition even more important for the city.

The bust used to belong to the Bolins, a well-known local family, but in 2004 it was stolen while work was being carried out on their home. They reported the theft and an investigation was carried out, but nothing more was ever found out about its possible whereabouts.

In what sounds like a scene from a film, the Bolins were watching a TV interview with Ricardo Arranz, the manager of the Villa Padierna Hotel near Marbella in 2010, after America's then First Lady, Michelle Obama, had stayed there on holiday. They were amazed to spot their bust of Antoninus Pius in the background of the shot.

They contacted the hotel and showed them the police report about the theft. The hotel had bought the piece for 6,000 euros from an antique dealer in Seville and had all the documentation for it, but when Arranz found that it had been stolen, he returned it to its original owners. The Ifergan Collection bought it from them nine years later.

Despite all that has happened to it, the bust is in good condition. There are only eight images of Antoninus Pius in Spain whose origins can be confirmed, which is why the Junta de Andalucía feels it is so important that this one be protected and on display.