Roman villa with Caravaggio’s only ceiling painting fails to sell at auction

Topline

The starting bid on a Roman villa with the world’s only Caravaggio ceiling painting, which was expected to fetch $533 million at auction, was reduced after the property failed to sell on Tuesday.

Highlights

Villa Aurora did not receive any offers during a auction held on the online portal of the Italian Ministry of Justice, which sells properties that have been challenged in court.

Another auction will take place in April, with the minimum accepted bid reduced by around 20%, from nearly $400 million to around $320 million.

If it rises to more than $320 million, it could approach the record for the most expensive house sold, a Estate of $361 million in Hong Kong.

Large number

$360 million. That’s what Caravaggio’s mural alone is worth, according to Alessandro Zuccari, a history professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, who was hired by an Italian court to appraise the property. Caravaggio’s paintings are rare – less than 90 are known to still exist – and are rarely offered for sale.

Key Context

Villa Aurora, located on 2 hectares in the heart of Rome, is a key part of the inheritance battle between Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi and the three sons of her late husband, Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose family bought the property about four centuries ago. The princess, a Texan formerly known as Rita Jenrette, said Forbes she would like to stay in the house, but resigned herself to selling it after years of legal battles with her stepsons since the death of her husband in 2018. He wanted to keep the goods in the family, he told the New York Times in 2010. Half of the proceeds from the sale will go to her, while the other half will go to her late husband’s three sons from a previous marriage.

Further reading

Roman villa housing the only known ceiling painting by Caravaggio which is expected to fetch $546 million (Forbes)

Meet the Texas-born Italian princess who is selling a $532 million Roman villa with a Caravaggio ceiling (Forbes)

David C. Barham