Rome villa with Caravaggio’s only ceiling fresco fails to sell again | Italy
For the second time in three months, a historic villa in Rome that contains the only ceiling fresco ever painted by Renaissance master and famous villain Caravaggio has failed to attract a bidder.
More than four centuries after his death at the age of 38, the man known during his lifetime for his fights, arrests and lawsuits as much as for making what would become many of the most famous paintings in history continues to stir up trouble.
Villa Aurora, a sprawling 2,800 square meter (over 30,000 square foot) property, is the centerpiece of a bitter legal battle between US-born Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi and the deceased’s three sons Princess husband, Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi.
The property went under the hammer in January with a price tag of €471m (£392m). Having attracted no bidders, the sale was reopened on Thursday at €377 million, a 20% discount. But the result was the same.
The next round will take place on June 30 with an asking price of €301 million, another 20% reduction. If no one steps in at this price, the princess and the prince’s three sons will have to agree to go even lower. If that’s not successful – and according to Italian media it may not be – then a judge will decide the opening prize for the fourth round.
According to Beniamino Milioto, the princess’s lawyer, interested parties will need to put down a 10% deposit in order to bid, along with proof of enough assets to complete the sale and complete a restoration plan that would cost at least 10. millions of euros.
Milioto said that while there have been several informal expressions of interest, including from Microsoft’s Bill Gates, no one has completed the qualification process to bid for either round.
The villa and its property are under the protection of the Italian Ministry of Culture, which means that when a qualifying bid is submitted, the Italian state will have a chance to match the price and turn the villa into a cultural site. A petition calling for this to happen has attracted over 35,000 signatures, a level that compels the cash-strapped Italian government to consider the acquisition. But there is no indication that a state purchase is underway.
Whoever acquires the 40-room villa will become the owner of a vast art collection that goes beyond Caravaggio’s 2.75-meter fresco of the gods Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Its gardens include a sculpture by Michelangelo, and in the villa are further ceilings with frescoes by Baroque master Guercino and a spiral staircase created by 16th- and 17th-century architect Carlo Maderno, best known for designing the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The villa also includes a telescope given to the Ludovisi family by Galileo and a door that was once part of an ancient Venetian warship.
The Princess, now 72, was the main force behind a restoration project launched in 2003 after the villa was abandoned. This led to its opening to students and small private groups. But the visits stopped when her husband died four years ago, aged 77.
His will gave the princess the right to live on the property for as long as she wished, and it stated that when sold, the proceeds would be shared between the princess and three sons from her previous marriage. But the sons disputed his right to live in Villa Aurora.
The princess had a colorful life before marrying Ludovisi in 2009. She was previously married to North Carolina congressman John Jenrette, worked as a model, appeared nude twice on Playboy and starred in several films and low-budget television series.