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Rome’s €471m villa with Caravaggio fresco fails to sell at auction
The lavish Roman villa housing the only mural by Caravaggio failed to find a bidder on Tuesday in an auction sparked by a dispute between its heirs.
Published: 19 January 2022 10:36 CET
A Roman palace housing the only mural by Caravaggio and at the centre of a messy legal battle between a former Playboy model and the sons of her late husband, an Italian prince, will go up for auction on January 18, 2022. (Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP)
The sprawling Casino dell’Aurora will be put up for sale again in April, with the base price of €471 million ($534 million) lowered by about 20 percent, according to the notary involved in the sale.
“Nobody took part in the auction,” Camillo Verde told AFP, saying the next sale would take place on April 7th at 2pm Rome time.
The building is a Baroque jewel with gorgeous gardens and a valuable art collection that also includes frescoes by Guercino.
The base price has been lowered from €471 million to €376.8 million, Verde said.
However, this is the property’s value – the starting price for bids at auction on Tuesday was €353 million. In the next sale attempt, this will reportedly be lowered to €282 million.
Any possible bids should have been made no more than 24 hours after the opening of the auction, which would have been January 19th at 3pm.
The Casino dell’Aurora di Villa Ludovisi Boncompagni, in Rome. Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP
But there was no need. The €471 million estimate of the property, and the €353 million minimum bid, were clearly over-the-top figures despite the calibre of the artworks housed.
The auction was only open to those who can put up 10 percent of the starting price of €353 million, but the auction was empty and didn’t attract rumoured buyers such as Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei.
The residence of the noble Ludovisi Boncompagni family for hundreds of years, the 2,800-square-metre (30,000 square feet) Casino dell’Aurora is located in central Rome between the Via Veneto and the Spanish Steps.
The dispute is between the prince’s third and final wife, Rita Jenrette Boncompagni Ludovisi, a 72-year-old American former real estate broker and actor who once posed for Playboy, and the children from his first marriage.
Almost 40,000 people have called on the Italian government to exercise “its pre-emptive right” to buy the building and the Caravaggio, which alone is valued at €350 million, according to a petition on Change.org.
Under Italian law, the government can only do this after the sale to a private individual, and then within 60 days of the sale’s completion – and for the same price.
The Italian state itself regularly auctions off grand palazzi and other unusual buildings, usually due to the high cost of maintenance.
The oil mural by Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, dates to 1597 and is located on the ceiling in a corridor on the first floor of the palace.
It depicts Jupiter, Pluto and Neptune with the world at the centre, marked by signs of the zodiac.
“It’s certainly one of his earliest (works) and is very interesting because the subject is a mythological subject, and Caravaggio painted almost only sacred works,” art historian Claudio Strinati told AFP.
The palace was originally an outbuilding in the grounds of the Villa Ludovisi, of which nothing remains today. Its name comes from a Guercino fresco depicting the goddess Aurora, or Dawn, on her chariot.
Eurovision in Italy: Six things to expect from the 2022 contest
As Italy prepares to host the Grand Final of Eurovision 2022 this weekend, here's our quick guide to making sense of it all.
Published: 10 May 2022 15:58 CEST Updated: 13 May 2022 09:33 CEST
The northern Italian city of Turin is hosting the glitzy event in 2022 thanks to the leather-clad, eyeliner-wearing Italian rock band Måneskin, who claimed the title in Rotterdam last year with their track ‘Zitti e Buoni’.
As the acts move through the semi-final stages this week before the Grand Final on Saturday, here’s what you can expect from the 66th edition of Eurovision. Get your score cards, flags and sequins at the ready.
High expectations for Italy’s entry
After last year’s win, Italy’s act for 2022, Mahmood and BLANCO, have a lot to live up to. Not just because of the country’s Eurovision victory, and not even because Italy has been on a winning streak – but because the duo have their own hype to follow.
Individually, they boast their own successes too. Mahmood broke into the spotlight on X Factor Italia, as did the reigning champions Måneskin. He’s got a stream of singles and two albums under his belt and has already experienced Eurovision accolade, coming second in 2019 with his hit ‘Soldi‘.
BLANCO is a singer/rapper from the northern Italian city, Brescia, with chart-toppers in the form of a single and an album.
You can listen to the track here, with the lyrics in Italian and English translation underneath.
Italy doesn’t have to compete to get into the final
Italy can participate in the final without needing to qualify, as it is one of the five countries that have a right to enter, along with Spain, Germany, France and the UK.
The other countries must first compete in the semi-finals, which begin on Tuesday, May 10th and the second lot are due to compete on Thursday, May 12th.
This year’s theme
As you may expect, Italy is injecting a certain artistic (higher brow?) flair into this year’s theme.
The organiser, Italian public broadcaster Rai, described the theme in Turin as “a visual representation of The Sound of Beauty”.
“In order to represent sound and its visual properties, the design is based on the symmetrical structure and patterns of cymatics – the study of sound wave phenomena,” it added.
Expect lots of beautiful, symmetrical sound waves, akin to the shape of looping Italian gardens.
Initial snaps from rehearsals show the event promises to have the expected fireworks and pomp too, even so.
Hats off to Italy for exerting some cultural influence, but this is Eurovision, after all. It’s an unspoken law that feathers, sparkles, tassels and questionable taste are a founding principle of the event – and this year will surely be no different.
You can join in by voting
Once upon a time, voting at home was almost a parlour game played among family and friends with pencils and notebooks.
Then it evolved into televoting, sending texts, and now for 2022, you can play a part in choosing the winning act by voting through Eurovision’s Official Eurovision Song Contest app.
Details of how and when to vote will be shared during the shows.
This would be Italy’s fourth Eurovision win
Should the rapping duo give everyone the chills as they hope to and they bag the title, it would mark the fourth time Italy has won Eurovision.
The country previously won the contest in 1964 with Non Ho L’età, receiving nearly three times as many votes as the runner-up, then in 1990, when Toto Cutugno won with the song Insieme:1992 and last year with Måneskin’s triumph.
Italy’s Maneskin performs during the final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, at the Ahoy convention centre in Rotterdam, on May 22, 2021. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)
Italy is one of the 14 founding participants of the Eurovision Song Contest – it could even be one of the reasons the world tunes in to watch the sometimes controversial, often hilarious music competition, as it’s said to be modelled on Italy’s Sanremo music festival.
You can watch on TV or online
If you’re in Italy, you can catch the spectacle on host broadcaster’s network Rai or get tickets at the PalaOlimpico venue in Turin, Piedmont.
For a full list of which channel to tune into for your country, or for online streaming, check here.