Roman Villa with the World’s Only Caravaggio Wall Fresco for Sale | Italy
A sprawling villa in Rome containing the only ceiling fresco ever painted by Italian master Caravaggio is on sale for almost 500 million euros (£ 422 million).
The 2.75-meter-wide Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto painting was commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte in the 16th century to adorn the ceiling of what was his alchemy laboratory at the Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as the name of Villa Aurora.
Villa Aurora, surrounded by high walls near via Veneto in central Rome, is all that remains of a retreat established by the cardinal.
“Del Monte bought a property there, which he restructured before commissioning Caravaggio to paint the mural in his laboratory, which was only a very small room,” said Alessandro Zuccari, professor of history at the ‘La Sapienza University in Rome, which oversaw the evaluation of the mural. “It’s an extraordinary job that it was difficult to put a price on, because it was the only mural that Caravaggio had ever done and so we had nothing to compare it to.
Zuccari valued the mural, painted by Caravaggio when he was in his 20s, at no less than 310 million euros. The entire property will be auctioned on January 18 with an opening bid of € 471 million.
The building also contains rooms decorated with frescoes by the Baroque painter Guercino, who was commissioned by the Ludovisi family, a noble family closely linked to the papacy who bought the property from Del Monte.
The sale of Villa Aurora comes after a long succession dispute following the death of its owner, Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, in 2018.
“These are other dramatically decorated pieces, but the most important works are those of Caravaggio and Guercino,” Zuccheri said. “It’s a unique place in the world.
The property is filled with other antiques, although dozens of ancient statues are now housed in the National Roman Museum after being purchased by the Italian state.
As the site is protected by the Ministry of Culture, once the offer is accepted at auction, the state will have the option of buying the property at the same price.
“The state will have the right to buy it, the problem will be whether it can pay such a high price,” Zuccheri said.
Whoever buys the property will have to spend an additional 11 million euros in restoration costs.
Villa Aurora has been off the beaten track for most tourists. Until 2019, it was only possible to visit the villa and its gardens by pre-booking a private tour, organized once a month.