Monday, May 29

11 rooms, 10 bathrooms and a Caravaggio remain without a buyer

Villa Aurora, the Roman mansion that the American actress Rita Jenrette, widow of the aristocrat Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, could not maintain and did not manage to sell, today she went up for auction without being awarded a buyer. In its luxurious interior, in addition to the six floors, the 11 rooms, the 10 bathrooms and the garden, it houses the only known mural painted by Caravaggio, as well as other works of art. A court decided that the palace should be auctioned off so that Ludovisi’s heirs could settle their tax debt, but no one has bid for it.

The auction it had a starting price of 471 million euros, although the judge had dictated a minimum price of 353 million, but it has been abandoned and will have to be repeated on April 7, lowering the starting price by 20%. In principle, the bidding period was 25 hours and it was not expected to end until three in the afternoon on Wednesday, but the lack of interest has accelerated its closing.

The expert Alessandro Zuccari, historian at the University of La Sapienza raised the valuation of the building to 432 million euros albeit reluctantly, stressing in his report that “currently there are no valuation parameters” and that it is “invaluable”.

The news of the sale of the also known as Casino dell’Aurora has aroused international interest and concern from Italians, who have collected signatures for the State to buy the house. But according to Italian law, before the Government can exercise the right of preference, an individual must buy the property and only at that time and within 60 days of the transfer, the State can intervene by offering the same amount or a figure highest. And then it would be his.

The mansion of Ludovisi, who died in 2018, has numerous pieces of art, paintings, sculptures or books, in addition to the Caravaggio mural entitled Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto and the fresco that gives the town its name, the allegory of the Aurora, the work of Guercino, an exponent of Roman baroque, and other painters such as Dominichino, Paul Bril or Giambattista Viola.

The palace is in disuse. Today it is cold, dark and damp but in the past it was one of the power centers of Rome and its beauty was praised for its beauty by the writers Goethe, Stendhal or Gabriele D’Annunzio.

D’Annunzio wrote about the villa in his novel The vergini delle rocce, which takes place in Rome. In it he names “the gigantic cypresses” in the garden, which already hovered “their ancient mystery” over Goethe, highlighting their “naked black roots”. For the decadent author, this was one of the “noble villas” that inspired him.

Rita Jenrette has been its last tenant. He has declared that he cannot afford the expenses and has entered into a conflict with the children of a previous marriage of Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, from whom he also inherited the title of “princess”. As Jenrette declared to the EFE agency, Bill Gates came to offer some 200 million dollars for the mansion fifteen years ago.