The Roman residence of princes Ludovisi Boncompagni, which houses a work by Caravaggio, was auctioned on Tuesday in Rome. Estimated at a total of 471 million euros, the event is attended by art-loving Italians who do not wish to see this cultural heritage ceded to wealthy individuals.
Caravaggio, or Michelangelo Merisi by his real name, thus left his mark on the vault which is on the first floor of the Casino de l’Aurore, an annex of the famous Villa Ludovici.
His work, which dates from 1597, is a ceiling decoration commissioned at the time by Cardinal Del Monte. The particularity of this oil painting is its representation of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, with the terrestrial globe and the signs of the zodiac in the center.
‘Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto’, the only known ceiling painting by Italian master Caravaggio in the Casino dell’Aurora inside the Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, in Rome, Italy, 18 January 2022.
— european pressphoto agency (@epaphotos) January 18, 2022
Indeed, as art historian and former museum curator Claudio Strinati points out, not only is it “one of Caravaggio’s first works, but it deals with a mythological subject, while painted almost exclusively religious works ”.
A petition to preserve this cultural heritage
A rarity that many Italians would like to preserve. For this, they wanted this jewel to be bought by the Italian State and even launched a petition published on the change.org site. Named “SOS culture sold at a discount“, the process has already counted nearly 35,000 signatures.
The authors of it denounce an “auction intended for individuals, when the State should have exercised its right of pre-emption on the priceless painting by Caravaggio valued at 350 million euros”.
Moreover, the Italian press, which has cataloged this event as the “auction of the century”, has leaked some names of potential buyers, such as Bill Gates or the Sultan of Brunei, although the list remains secret. The sale could last up to 24 hours, with a starting price set at 353 million euros.