No bidders for Rome villa with world's only Caravaggio mural

ROME : An online auction for a villa in central Rome, which has the only known ceiling mural by Italian baroque artist Caravaggio, failed to draw any bidders on Tuesday, meaning it will now be offered at a discount.

The property was put on the market following a drawn-out inheritance dispute and was initially valued by court-appointed experts at 471 million euros ($533 million), making it potentially one of the most expensive homes in the world.

The minimum bidding price was set at 353.25 million euros, but there were no takers and the sale was called void by a judicial auction website

The villa will be put up for sale again on April 7, with the price due to be cut by some 20per cent, Italian media reported.

Under Italian law, properties that fail to find buyers at court-ordered auctions can be placed back on the block with a discount of up to 25per cent. There was no immediate comment from the Rome tribunal auction authority.

Caravaggio was commissioned to paint the ceiling of a small room on the first floor in 1597. The 2.75-metre wide mural was painted in oil directly onto the plaster and depicts an allegorical scene with the gods Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto representing the transformation of lead into gold.

Caravaggio painted his own face and body on each of the three figurines. The mural alone is valued at 310 million euros.

The walled villa is what is left of a country retreat established in the 16th century by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte and sold to its current owners, the noble Ludovisi family, in the early 1600s.

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Following the death of Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi in 2018, the property became the target of a legal dispute pitting Ludovisi’s children from his first marriage against his third wife, Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, who was born and raised in Texas but has lived in the villa for 18 years.

($1 = 0.8829 euros)

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alison Williams)


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