Villa Aurora sale did not raise a single bid

Rome’s most expensive villa fails to sell at auction

By Region Central Italy News

Villa Aurora, the only one in the world with a Caravaggio ceiling mural, fails to sell at auction. It was valued at €471million, with a reserve price of €353million. The mural alone is valued at €310million.

After the Villa Aurora failed to sell yesterday at auction, without a single bid, a new price has been set. The sellers reduced the original market value of €471million by 20%.

The sale of a Roman villa with the world’s only Caravaggio ceiling painting, has been rescheduled for 7th April. It is on sale as a result of a bitter inheritance battle. The new reported figure is €376.8 million.

Inheritance dispute

Following the death in 2018 of Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose family have owned the historic 2,800-sqm property for the last 400 years, an inheritance battle started between the widow and the sons.

The dispute is between the prince’s three sons from his first marriage and his third wife, the Texan-born Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. The Princess has spent much of the last two decades renovating the property with her late husband.

A Rome tribunal ordered the villa sold via auction. It estimated the value at €471million. Most of the asking price arises due to the Caravaggio mural, valued at €310 million alone.

Caravaggio ceiling mural

Caravaggio ceiling mural. †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Casino Aurora, Rome.courtesy of

The only known ceiling painting by the Baroque master, Caravaggio, dates to 1597. It is an allegorical scene featuring Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. The villa’s first owner, Cardinal Del Monte, commissioned it for his alchemy room.

However the mural, which contains nudity, was subsequently covered up and not rediscovered until 1968.

Also in the villa are frescoes by the Italian Baroque painter Guercino. The one in the main reception hall is of the Roman goddess Aurora, which lent its name to the villa. The gardens contain a statue of Pan attributed to Michelangelo.

Under Italian law, the government has a 60-day window to exercise its right of first refusal after a sale agreement to a private buyer. An online petition to “safeguard what is ours”, has gathered 40,000 signatures. The petition is urging the government to use EU funds to purchase the property. However, even at the reduced price the villa may be beyond the reach of the state.

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