Villa Aurora goes under the hammer again after failing to sell twice at auction earlier this year.
An historic Rome villa with the world's only known ceiling painting by Caravaggio goes up for sale a third time, on 30 June, after two previous court-ordered auctions this year failed to attract a single bid.
The new reserve for the Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, has been slashed a second time in a fresh attempt to find a buyer.
Its original asking price on 18 January was a colossal €471 million, reduced by around 20 per cent to €376 million on 30 April.
The third online auction starts at 15.00 on Thursday, via a website that deals with bankruptcy property, with a minimum opening offer of €226 million.
The courts have stipulated that whoever purchases the property – protected under Italian cultural heritage laws – must spend a further €11 million on restoration costs.
The sale is the result of a bitter inheritance battle following the death in 2018 of Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose family has owned the property near Via Veneto for the last 400 years.
The dispute is between the prince's three sons from his first marriage and his third wife, the American-born Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, 72, who spent much of the last two decades renovating the 2,800-sqm property with her late husband.
The prince's sons contested their father's will, which the princess says entitles her to live in Villa Aurora for the rest of her life and, that if sold, the proceeds would be split between her and her stepsons.
After the two parties failed to reach an agreement, the courts ordered that the 11-bedroom villa be put up for auction.
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 newly reduced price the state may be unable, or unwilling, to purchase the property.
In addition to the Caravaggio mural, the villa contains frescoes by Guercino, works by Bril, Domenichino, Pomarancio and Viola, a staircase by architect Carlo Maderno, and a statue attributed to Michelangelo.
Despite being privately owned, the unique property has been accessible to the public, with guided tours given by Princess Rita.
Earlier this year, the villa was due to open its doors for the annual FAI Spring Days initiative. However the visit was cancelled at the last minute, reportedly against the wishes of the princess, after the prince's sons refused to give authorisation, according to Il Giornale dell'Arte.
Marco Magnifico, president of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), believes that public access to the villa, even on a limited basis, should be ensured in the future, amid hopes that the state might step in to acquire the villa.
"Private property is a right" - Magnifico told Il Giornale dell'Arte - "but if such an important and unique building in the history of art were used as a personal home, without allowing a visit to the public, it would be a crime."
For detailed information about the villa and its sale see Antigone article by Prof. Corey Brennan while for further insights into the property's rich history, in English, see the Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi.
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Rome villa with Caravaggio mural up for sale a third time
ViaLO, 46, 00187 Roma RM, Italy