Auction Flop: Roman Villa with Caravaggio Ceiling Mural Attracts Zero Bidders

Friday 28th January 2022 -


Auction Flop: Roman Villa with Caravaggio Ceiling Mural Attracts Zero Bidders

Take a look at the sale fail from earlier this month.

A 16th-century villa in Rome, proud home to the only ceiling mural ever painted by Italian master Caravaggio, has flopped at auction. It was expected to fetch £393 million, which would have made it the most expensive residential property ever to be sold at auction. However, the property surprisingly attracted no interest whatsoever.

Villa Aurora came to auction as a result of an inheritance dispute between the three sons of its last owners, Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi, and his wife, Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Prospective bidders were required to register their offers ahead of the online auction, which took place on Tuesday afternoon this week.

A history professor at Sapienza University in Rome, Alessandro Zuccari, oversaw the valuation of the villa's mural. He has since said of the auction: "I'm not surprised there were no bids, in fact, I would have been amazed if a buyer had come forward. The price is too high. Let's see what happens in April, but I doubt anyone will come forward then."

The property is located in central Rome, close to the Via Veneto and surrounded by high walls. It is the last remaining aspect of a massive retreat spanning 89 acres established in the 16th century by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte.

Del Monte commissioned Caravaggio's mural, entitled 'Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, in 1597 as a decorative feature of his alchemy laboratory. The property was subsequently purchased from Del Monte in 1621 by the Ludovisis, who were a noble family with close ties to the papacy.

The substantial asking price for the villa is attributed mainly to the work by Caravaggio, but the property also contains frescoed ceilings created by the baroque painter Guercino. A mural depicting the goddess Aurora, painted by Guercino, was added later than the Caravaggio mural. The Ludovisi family commissioned this piece of art after they purchased the villa. In addition to the colossal price tag, the eventual buyer of the property will have to spend a substantial amount on restoration works – estimated to cost around 11 million euros.

The site is protected by Italy's Ministry of Culture, which means that the state will have the opportunity to purchase the property at the same price as any agreed winning bid once one has been made. There has recently been a petition urging the Italian government to do just that, and over 35,000 people have signed the petition so far.

After failing to attract any bids earlier this month, the villa has been rescheduled to go under the hammer again on April 7th 2022. This time the villa is advertised with a 20% price reduction. It has been said that Bill Gates has previously been interested in acquiring the villa. Still, one thing's for sure - whoever does end up buying the property will have to have nearly bottomless pockets even at the discounted asking price.