Mon, 23 May 2022

ROME, Italy: Villa Aurora, a villa for sale in Rome with a starting price of $534 million, was expected to become the most expensive property ever sold at an auction, but attracted no bids.

Another attempt to sell it is expected in April, with a 20 percent price cut.

The highlight of the six-story villa's many treasures is a wall painting by the 16th and 17th century artist Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio.

It is the world's only surviving Caravaggio mural, itself estimated to have a value of $350 million. It was painted in 1597 after the villa's first owner commissioned it for his laboratory.

However, Villa Aurora got its name from another of the property's artworks, a fresco painted by the Italian Baroque artist Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino. The painting depicts the goddess Aurora, or Dawn, on her chariot.

Meanwhile, more than 38,000 people have signed a petition asking the Italian government to buy the villa so that its many treasures are available for public viewing.

Whoever the eventual buyer is, they will take ownership of an array of historical items, including letters written by Marie Antoinette and a Michelangelo statue in the garden.

However, the listing for the auction makes it clear that the buyer will also be responsible for about $12 million of repairs.

Currently, the villa is at the centre of a legal battle between its current occupier, Texas-born Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, and her stepsons. The battle over the villa's ownership began after the death in 2018 of Prince Nicolo Ludovisi Boncompagni, who was head of the family which has owned Villa Aurora for generations.

The dispute is between his third wife and his three sons from his first marriage.

Princess Rita said her late husband's will gives her the right to live in Villa Aurora for the rest of her life, and that if sold, the proceeds would be split between her and her stepsons.

However, an agreement could not be reached between the parties and a court ruled that an auction be held. The princess says she would like the villa to be returned to the state.

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