An auction for a Roman villa featuring a ceiling mural by Italian painter Caravaggio that is at the center of an inheritance dispute was rescheduled after failing to receive any bidders. File Photo by Riccardo Antimiani/EPA-EFE
Jan. 18 (UPI) -- An auction for a 16th-century Roman villa containing the only ceiling mural by Italian painter Caravaggio was rescheduled after failing to attract any bids on Tuesday.
Villa Aurora was put up for auction with a starting price of $533 million but no bidders registered their offers before the deadline at midnight on Monday so the auction was pushed to April 7 and the price was reduced by 20%, Beniamo Mioloto, a lawyer for the villa's current occupant, confirmed to The Guardian.
The villa was at the center of an inheritance dispute between Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi -- the American-born widow of the villa's late owner Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi -- and her three stepsons.
Prior to her husband's death, the princess was credited with restoring the property, which was once made inaccessible to visitors by chest-high weeds, enabling scholars to search the grounds, which resulted in several historically important discoveries, including a chest stuffed with letters of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.
"It was really a journey of love," the princess said. "Basically, we sacrificed everything, my husband and I did, for this house and for his family."
Following the prince's death in 2017, a lien was placed on the property and his sons from a previous marriage contested their father's will, which the princess said left her 50% of the villa's value and the right to use it for life.
An Italian court ruled in September that the villa would be auctioned off.
Much of the villa's asking price has been attributed to the Caravaggio but other ceilings in the villa were also frescoed by the baroque painter Guercino.
A prospective buyer would also be required to pay about $12 million in repairs.
The site is protected by the ministry of culture and once a bid has been agreed upon at the auction the state will have the opportunity to buy the property at the same price.
More than 35,000 people signed a petition last week urging the government to purchase the villa.