No rich person in the world was willing to make an opening bid of 353 million euros for Villa Aurora, which houses many artistic treasures. There will be a new auction on April 7.
The 16th-century Villa Aurora in Rome contains the only ceiling painting ever painted by Caravaggio. There are also ceilings with frescoes by the Baroque painter Guercino. The property is where Julius Caesar’s house once stood, and statues in the front yard also feature Michelangelo.
The fact that the villa, which has been in the possession of the noble Ludovisi family for centuries, is now for sale is the result of a long-running inheritance dispute between the American widow of Prince Niccol Boncompany Ludovisi and his sons. Because they couldn’t tell, the judge ruled that the building should be auctioned.
But Villa Aurora was worth 471 million euros. The mural by Caravaggio in particular raises the price significantly. The opening bid was supposed to be €353 million at auction on Tuesday, but that turned out to be too high for potential interested parties.
That is why a new auction will be held on April 7. The price drops by twenty percent. The fact that the villa is for sale raises the mood in Italy. A petition is being filed asking the Italian government to intervene and, if necessary, buy the building itself. “But the estimated value is one-fifth of the Italian Ministry of Culture’s total budget,” Mattia Morandi, the ministry’s director of communications, replied by phone. Therefore, the government prefers to wait for the outcome of the auction. “If a buyer is found, the Italian government has another 60 days to purchase the building at the same price.”
Some fear that the artistic treasures of Villa Aurora will soon be permanently hidden from the public eye. But the famous Italian art historian Claudio Strinati describes this with great exaggeration. The villa has already limited access and has always been privately owned. “But it’s also a protected building,” Strinati says. As a result, the new owner not only has to comply with strict rules, but may also be required to open the building to the public at least periodically.
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