Texas-Born Princess Tries, Fails to Sell an Opulent Villa

There were no takers for Villa Aurora at $400M
By Stephanie Mojica,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2022 3:09 PM CST
Texas-Born Princess Struggles to Offload an Opulent Villa
A wall painting attributed to 16th century artist Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, is seen inside the Casino dell'Aurora, also known as Villa Ludovisi, in Rome, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

Texas-born Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi is having a hard time unloading a 16th-century Italian villa loaded with countless priceless pieces of art and appraised at $533 million—despite a price tag far lower. A court-ordered auction of the "Villa Aurora" estate in Rome failed to draw any bids on Tuesday despite a starting bid of $400 million, so the AP reports the home will return to the auction block on April 2 with a starting bid of $320 million. The villa includes "Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto"—the only ceiling mural that famed Renaissance artist Caravaggio ever completed, a painting said to be worth $350 million. A sculpture by Michelangelo of Pan, the Greek god of nature, is also among the artwork in the villa, reports NPR.

Before becoming Princess Rita she was Rita Jenrette, wife of US Rep. John Jenrette of South Carolina, CBS News reports. That marriage ended in divorce after he was convicted of fraud; the future Princess Rita posed for Playboy around the same time. She found a path in real estate and helped Donald Trump buy the GM building in 1998 before marrying Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi in 2009. At that time the villa was in poor condition and used only as an office by the prince; it has since been renovated. When the prince died in 2018, the classic inheritance dispute between the third wife and the children of the first marriage ensued. The court ordered the villa be sold, with 50% of the proceeds going to Princess Rita and the remaining half going to her stepchildren.

The villa measures 30,000 square feet and includes opulent, expansive gardens with busts of Roman gods. Built in 1570, it's been held solely by the Ludovisi family nearly all that time. Letters from Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, and numerous popes were found in the villa in 2010. T. Corey Brennan, a Rutgers University professor, said during an interview with NPR that there are numerous pieces of art and writing yet to be found inside. But there are likely some headaches too: It's estimated that more than $10 million of renovations are needed. (More mansion stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.