Auction  October 27, 2021  Anna Claire Mauney

Villa Containing Caravaggio’s Only Mural to be Auctioned

Wikimedia Commons

Detail of chalk portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni, circa 1621.

The auction of a Roman Villa—known as Villa Aurora or Casino Dell’Aurora—has recently been announced and set a stir within the art world. Why? Because it contains the only known ceiling mural executed by the legendary artist Caravaggio.

The sale is scheduled for January 18, 2022 and is expected to set a new auction record for real estate.

Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Lalupa.

Villa Aurora in 2012.

The current record real estate sale concerns a Hong Kong residence. That 51,000 square-foot home sold for around $361 million. Villa Aurora is estimated to pull $545.8 million (€471 million). According to multiple sources, the property is in need of several restorative projects which could cost the buyer an additional $13 million (€11 million).

Italy's Ministry of Culture currently protects Villa Aurora and, as such, the state will have an opportunity to buy the property once a price has been settled on in auction. However, it is perhaps unlikely that the state will be able to afford such a purchase as it will have to meet the amount settled on by bidders.

The property—the sole remaining building of a once far-larger, sixteenth-century estate—is still over 30,000 square feet and currently contains other treasures including statues dating to 500 BC and nine additional ceiling murals painted by other leading sixteenth-century artists.

Wikimedia Commons.

Caravaggio, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, c. 1597.

One mural by the artist Guercino acts as the Villa’s namesake for it features the Roman goddess Aurora, the personification of dawn and the mythological herald of the sun.

Still, the Carrivagio mural, which spans the ceiling of an approximately 30 square foot room (2.75 square meters), is the item making headlines.

Painted when Caravaggio was merely in his twenties, the artwork is a celestial masterwork that truly embodies the most signature and influential aspects of the artist's ouvre.

Wikimedia commons.

Caravaggio, The Crucifixion of Saint Peter, 1601.

Caravaggio is often associated with the birth of the Baroque period. While his influence on the style is undeniable, the artist’s true legacy is perhaps his unique ability to heighten art history's most revisited subjects via a combination of high drama and naturalism.

For example, the artist’s paintings of biblical scenes are always suitably dramatic and emotionally charged but they also feature individuals with contemporary clothing and realistically dirt-smeared feet and faces.

This mythological ceiling mural is similar. The gods Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto stand in the heavens, peering over mankind at such a realistic angle, that the effect should almost be awkward. And yet, this does not diminish the gods’ majesty and strength. Rather, it injects the scene with a dose of reality that grounds it and, arguably, makes it more believable and therefore more powerful.

Wikimedia Commons.

Caravaggio, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, c. 1597.

The mural alone is estimated to be worth upwards of $360 million (310 million euros) according to history professor Alessandro Zuccari, who oversaw the artwork's valuation.

The sale of the Villa will be handled by auction company Fallco Zucchetti.

About the Author

Anna Claire Mauney

Anna Claire Mauney is the former managing editor for Art & Object. A writer and artist living in North Carolina, she is interested in illustration, the 18th-century, and viceregal South America. She is also the co-host of An Obsessive Nature, a podcast about writing and pop culture.

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