FILE PHOTO: Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi poses for a photograph outside Villa Aurora, a building that boasts Caravaggio’s only ceiling mural, which is up for auction in January with an opening bid set at 471 million euros, in Rome, Italy, November 1
ROME (Reuters) – A U.S.-born princess was evicted on Thursday from a Roman villa featuring the only known fresco by Italian baroque artist Caravaggio, and denounced her ousting as a travesty of justice.
“I am being brutally evicted from a home which I have lovingly taken care of for the past 20 years,” Princess Rita Jenrette Boncompagni Ludovisi said on Twitter shortly before leaving her home along with her four small dogs.
A court in Rome served the eviction notice in January amid a bitter inheritance battle with her three stepsons, ruling that she had failed to maintain the building following the collapse of an outside wall.
The court also said she had violated a previous order forbidding her from giving paying tours of the mansion.
Princess Boncompagni Ludovisi, 73, told Reuters in January that the tours were organised to raise money for maintenance. On Thursday she questioned whether she had fallen victim to sexism or racism.
“Someone said it is because I am a woman and American. I don’t know. It is all about money obviously, wow,” she said.
A police patrol was dispatched to carry out the eviction order and changed the locks on an entrance door to the Casino dell’Aurora estate even before the princess had driven away.
A former actress, Playboy model and ex-wife of a U.S. congressman, Boncompagni Ludovisi married the late Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi, scion of one of Europe’s most aristocratic families, in 2009.
The prince died in 2018. In his will, he gave his wife the right to stay in the Rome villa for the rest of her life. However, his sons disputed the document and an Italian judge ordered that the villa be sold and the proceeds split.
The Casino dell’Aurora was put under the hammer in January 2022, with a minimum bidding price of around 350 million euros ($385 million), making it potentially one of the most expensive homes in the world.
However, that auction attracted no bids, and a string of subsequent sales also failed, despite a progressively lower asking price, most recently in January when the minimum required bid was put at 145 million euros.
The villa’s 2.75-metre-wide Caravaggio painted ceiling, commissioned in 1597, depicts an allegorical scene with the gods Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto representing the transformation of lead into gold. It cannot be removed from the house.
($1 = 0.9104 euros)