Villa Aurora in Italy with Caravaggio’s ceiling mural is up for Bidding

November 22, 2021



Catherine D. Ong

Villa Aurora, more locally referred to as Casino Dell’Aurora or Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, is the last existing building of a 16th-century country retreat. The property was once part of an 89-acre estate where writers and artists were sure to spot on their Grand Tour, a trip through Europe commonly made by upper-class Europeans. Villa Aurora in itself measures more than 30,000 square feet and has six floors. Until 2019, a private tour of the villa and its sprawling gardens was permitted once a month.

It is located between Vittorio Veneto, Porta Pinciana and Villa Borghese, in one of the most elegant areas of the capital. Villa Aurora was the ancestral home of the late Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, a descendant of Pope Gregory XV. Ludovisi was living in the villa up until 2018 when he passed away at the age of 77. Originally, it was commissioned by cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte in 1597, who would have used the room as an alchemical laboratory.

The home boasts of a 2.75m wide painting by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio that is situated on the ceiling, depicting the three most powerful Roman gods and aptly titled Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.

The painting is about 10 feet long and 6 feet wide, illustrating the god of sky and thunder flying on a majestic eagle, the god of sea on his mighty seahorse and a naked god of the underworld rounding up the painting with a translucent globe. Caravaggio’s body of work always seemed to venture into depictions of violence and would often use himself as a model for the faces on his paintings.

“Del Monte bought property there, which he restructured before commissioning Caravaggio to paint the mural in his lab, which was only a very small room. It’s an extraordinary work which was difficult to put a price on, seeing as it was the only mural ever done by Caravaggio and so we had nothing to compare it to.” – Alessandro Zuccari, History professor at Sapienza University in Rome

Zuccari was the one who appraised the mural painted by Caravaggio when he was in his 20’s, at approximately than 310 million euros ($360 million). Since this is the only Caravaggio mural painting in existence, the buyer of the home will surely pay a hefty price—including restoration costs.

A court in Rome has confirmed that the bidding for Villa Aurora starts at 471 million euros ($547 million) in January. This could be the world’s most expensive home that has ever been up for purchase. Fallco Zucchetti is the auction company that is handling the sale.

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