All eyes in Italy today were on the auction of a 16th-century villa that’s home to a Caravaggio mural. But despite the fanfare that preceded the sale, it ended up being rather anticlimactic. When the villa received no bids, the auction concluded early and was postponed to a later date.
The storied home, which is known as the Villa Aurora, is located in Rome, and houses what is believed to be Caravaggio’s only ceiling mural. Painted in 1597, the mural is an image of the Roman gods Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto seen from below. The villa is also the site of a massive Guercino mural depicting the Roman goddess Aurora.
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The Villa Aurora was initially built as a hunting lodge for a Roman cardinal, and had come to market amid an inheritance dispute. Its previous owner, Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, died in 2018. The dispute arose when his third wife, Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, claimed that she should be able to live in the villa for the rest of her life; Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi’s three sons from his first marriage disagreed with that assessment. When the two parties came to blows, a court ordered the sale of the Villa Aurora. Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi has said she hopes that the Italian state will eventually take over the villa.
The villa came to auction for €471 million ($533.7 million). The Caravaggio painting itself was valued at €310 million ($351.3 million). According to a Guardian report, restorations expected to cost €11 million ($12.5 million) were also needed for the villa’s upkeep.
The court-facilitated sale was essentially a flop. The auction had been expected to last 24 hours, and many had expected a flurry of bids, even in spite of the costs associated with restoring the villa. But no such bids came about, and the sale was rescheduled for April 7. The Milan-based daily newspaper Corriere reported that the price for the villa would be lowered by 20 percent.