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Caravaggio-decorated Roman Villa Goes For Auction

Villa Aurora, the famed Roman villa that houses decorations by Caravaggio, is hitting the auction block on January 18.

Formally known as the Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, the Villa Aurora is a Renaissance-era property located in Rome. Owned by the Lodovisi family, the property will be open to auction on January 18 next year. The opening bid of the property is set at €471 million ($546 million). The Villa Aurora features the only ceiling painted by Italian master Caravaggio, making it a uniquely valuable piece of property.

Caravaggio's Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, ca. 1597.
The painted ceiling by Caravaggio

Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, the original owner of the property, had commissioned Caravaggio in 1597 to paint a ceiling in his alchemy laboratory. The ceiling features the three primary Roman Gods – Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto – each accompanied by a beast. In 1621, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi purchased the property to join his adjacent vast estate, collectively called the Villa Ludovisi. Ludovisi also re-designed the whole property, including adding a fresco portraying Aurora by Italian painter Il Guercino. Since then, the property has commonly been called the Villa Aurora.

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Since 1621, the property has been owned by the Ludovisi family. In the 20th century, most of the land was sold to the government, which used it to pave roads. The Villa Aurora remained with the family to date. However, after the death of its last owner – Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi – in 2018, the rest of the family decided to put up the property on sale. It is estimated that the property would require an additional $15 million in restoration costs. The Italian government is also a player, who reserves the right to match the highest bid in an attempt to preserve the property as a national heritage.