Roman Villa Home To Caravaggio’s Only Known Ceiling Painting Expected To Fetch $546 Million


A sixteenth-century villa in Central Rome that contains the only ceiling mural attributed to Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio after the city he was raised in, will go in auction next year and is expected to sell for roughly $546 million.

Key Facts

Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, located just south of the city’s famed Villa Borghese gardens, called Villa Aurora and will be sold at auction in January, according to The Art Newspaper.

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

Del Monte commissioned Caravaggio to paint the ceiling of his alchemy lab with a roughly nine-foot wide mural of the Roman gods Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto which represent elements used in the ancient practice.

Caravaggio 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.”

Big Number

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

Key Background

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 Rome’s government, which destroyed them to make room to build Via Veneto, now one of the city’s most famous and glamorous streets. Villa Aurora also contains works by Guercino, another famed Baroque artist commissioned by the Ludovisi family. The family, which still owns the villa, has offered public tours of the property until 2019. The villa has been part of an inheritance dispute since 2018, when former owner Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi died in 2018, according to Italian media. The late aristocrat hoped to preserve the villa for his descendants, he told The New York Times in 2010.

Further Reading

Rome villa with Caravaggio’s only ceiling painting announced for auction with a €471m price tag (The Art Newspaper)

Roman villa with world’s only Caravaggio mural up for sale (The Guardian)

U.S.-Born Princess Opens Historic Villa to the Public (New York Times)

Art Auction Halted As Spain Investigates Whether Painting Is Actually A Lost Caravaggio (Forbes)

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