Fuss in Italy Over Auction Villa with Unique Caravaggio Fresco

The auction of a sixteenth-century Italian villa in Rome causes a stir in Italy. Politicians, academics and concerned citizens want the government to block the sale.


The Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi will go under the hammer on January 18 with an estimated value of more than 470 million euros.

The villa was built in 1570 and boasts a unique feature: the only known ceiling painting by the Baroque artist Caravaggio, made around 1597. This work of art has an estimated value of 300 million euros in itself.

The property has owned the Ludovisi family since the early seventeenth century. The Baroque painter Guercino made the large fresco Aurora in the house, which gave the villa the nickname Casino dell’Aurora. Part of the building is currently open to the public. However, critics fear that this may change after the sale.

Many Italians want the government to protect and preserve the villa for the public. An online petition to use European subsidies has been signed more than 32,000 times in just a few days. The Ministry of Culture is said to have already inquired with Prime Minister Mario Draghi whether the state could buy the villa.

The planned auction follows a family dispute. After owner Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi died in 2018, his children from his first marriage came into conflict with his third wife over the inheritance. A judge eventually ruled that the villa should be auctioned.

It is taken into account that the villa will eventually change hands for a record price. The buyer is expected to put hundreds of millions on the table for the property and allocate around 11 million euros for the restoration of the historic building.

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