Roman villa housing Caravaggio’s only known ceiling painting is expected to fetch $ 546 million

Top line

A 16th-century villa in central Rome that contains the only ceiling fresco attributed to Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio after the city he grew up in, will be auctioned next year and is expected to sell for around $ 547 million.


Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, located just south of the famous Villa Borghese Gardens, called Villa Aurora and will be auctioned off in January, according to The arts journal.

Villa Aurora was built by Italian Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, whose defining legacy is the main art collection he has amassed and his frequent patronage of Caravaggio.

Del Monte asked Caravaggio to paint the ceiling of his alchemy lab with an approximately nine-foot-wide mural depicting the Roman gods Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, which represent items used in ancient practice.

Caravaggio’s works that were once part of Del Monte’s collection include some of the artist’s most famous paintings, including “The Musicians”, “Bacchus” and “The Fortune Teller”.

Large number

$ 360 million. That’s what Caravaggio’s mural is worth at a minimum, said Alessandro Zuccari, professor of history at La Sapienza University in Rome. The Guardian. The highest price a Caravaggio piece has ever reached at auction is $ 145,000, a shockingly low figure for an artist as influential as Caravaggio. His coins are believed to sell for huge sums in private sales, and his coins rarely hit the market.

Key context

Villa Aurora is the last remaining part of a once larger property. In 1620, Del Monte sold the estate to the noble Ludovisi family, who later sold most of the buildings to the government of Rome, who destroyed them to make way for the construction of Via Veneto, today one of the most important streets. most famous and glamorous in the city. Villa Aurora also contains works by Guercino, another famous Baroque artist commissioned by the Ludovisi family. The family, who still own the villa, offered public tours of the property until 2019. The villa has been part of an inheritance dispute since 2018, when the former owner Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi died in 2018, according to Italian media. The late aristocrat hoped to preserve the villa for his descendants, he said The New York Times in 2010.

Further reading

Villa in Rome with the only Caravaggio ceiling painting to be auctioned with a price of 471 million euros (The arts journal)

Roman villa with the only Caravaggio wall fresco in the world for sale (The Guardian)

The princess born in the United States opens a historic villa to the public (New York Times)

Art auction halted as Spain investigates whether the painting is in fact a lost Caravaggio (Forbes)

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Margarita B. Bittner

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