Italy’s €471 million villa with Caravaggio mural fails to sell at auction

Villa Aurora price tag dropped by 20 per cent after no bids at 'auction of the century'.

The sale of a Roman villa with the world's only Caravaggio ceiling painting, which was put on the market valued at €471 million, has been rescheduled with a new reduced price after a court-ordered auction on Tuesday failed to attract a single bid.

The base asking price for the Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose opening bid had been set at €353 million, has been slashed by about 20 per cent to the reported figure of €376.8 million, with a new online auction set for 7 April.

The sale is the result of a bitter inheritance battle following the death in 2018 of Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose family have owned the historic 2,800-sqm property, known as Villa Aurora, for the last 400 years.

The dispute is between the prince's three sons from his first marriage and his third wife, the Texan-born Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi who spent much of the last two decades renovating the property with her late husband.

The Rome tribunal ordered that the 11-bedroom villa be put up for auction, estimating its value at €471 million and stipulating that whoever purchases the property - protected under Italian cultural heritage laws - must spend a further €11 million on restoration costs.

Villa Aurora. Photo Corriere dell Sera

Much of the astronomical price tag is attributed to the Caravaggio mural which has been valued at €310 million alone.

The oil on plaster work, the only known ceiling painting by the Baroque master, dates to 1597.

The allegorical scene featuring Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto was commissioned by the villa's first owner, Cardinal Del Monte, for his alchemy room.

However the mural, which contains nudity, was subsequently covered up and was not rediscovered until 1968.

The villa is also decorated with lavish frescoes by the Italian Baroque painter Guercino, including one in the main reception hall of the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, which gives the building its name, while its gardens include a statue of Pan attributed to Michelangelo.

Under Italian law, the government has a 60-day window to exercise its right of first refusal after a sale agreement to a private buyer, however even with the reduced price the state may not be able to afford the property.

In the meantime, an online petition in Italy urging the government to use EU funds to purchase Villa Aurora to "safeguard what is ours" has been signed by almost 40,000 people.

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Address Via Aurora, 6342, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

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Italy’s €471 million villa with Caravaggio mural fails to sell at auction

Via Aurora, 6342, 00187 Roma RM, Italy