A Texas-born Italian princess was evicted from a villa in Rome, Italy that features the only known ceiling painted by the renowned painter Caravaggio, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
The eviction was ordered by a judge in January on multiple grounds, including failure to maintain the home “in a good state of conservation” after an exterior wall fell apart.
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Princess Rita Jenrette Boncompagni Ludovisi, a widow formerly known as Rita Carpenter, left the Casino dell’Aurora with four dogs in a taxi after police arrived to enforced the judge’s eviction order. A locksmith changed the locks on the big green front door before the princess had even left, the AP reported.
“I feel like I’m in a surreal movie, like Sartre’s ‘No Exit,’” the princess told the wire service and other reporters on the street while being repeatedly interrupted by her four Bichon Frisé dogs.
The edict from Judge Miriam Iappelli instructed police to evict anyone still living at the Casino dell’Aurora, take possession of the villa, change the locks, and “dispose of or destroy” any furniture or documents left behind.
The Casino dell’Aurora, also known as Villa Ludovisi, was built in 1570 and has been the center of an inheritance dispute between the princess and surviving family members of Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi’s first marriage. According to the AP, the villa has been in the Ludovisi family since the 1960s. Princess Rita became the prince’s third wife in 2009. The prince died in 2018.
The ceiling painting by Italian master painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is located in a small room on the second floor of the villa. The nine-foot wide oil paint on plaster mural depicts Jupiter, Pluto, and Neptune, as well as a white horse. It was commissioned in 1597 by the diplomat and arts patron Cardinal Francesco Maria del Montea. It is currently the only ceiling mural that Caravaggio is known to have painted.
Prior to the eviction this week, Princess Rita lived at the villa with her two young grandchildren, as well as her housekeeper and the housekeeper’s daughter. The children from Prince Nicolo’s first marriage argued the Casino dell’Aurora belonged to them, and hired lawyers to gain control of the property so it could be sold.
“I was a good custodian for the villa,” she told AP.
One of the heirs, Prince Bante Boncompagni Ludovisi, was present at the villa to watch Princess Rita leave.
“This house needs renovations. The pipelines of water need to be restored and the frescoes are in danger,” he told reporters. “This is a country: We have our police, we have our judges and you need to respect our country and our laws if you stay here.”
When the villa was put up for auction by court order in December 2021, its value was estimated at 471 million euros ($533 million), but the listing noted that the property would need 11 million euros ($12.5 million) in renovations in order to bring it up to code. It failed to find a bidder and was relisted five months later with a lower base price. It is uncertain who will pay for the necessary renovations.