New from 2012: Gaetana Enders highlights the Villa Aurora in Spain’s ARS Magazine


We almost missed this one. The October-December 2012 issue of Madrid-based ARS Magazine highlights the work of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi in preserving and renovating their home, the Casino Aurora—the greatest vestige of the Villa Ludovisi.

The article “El legado Aurora” features an interview with the Prince and Princess and some superior images of the Casino’s interior spaces. These range from the entrance hall, with its vault fresco commemorating Francesco del Nero (1487-1563), treasurer of the Camera Apostolica under Clement VII and father of the first owner of the Casino; the justly famed CaravaggioGiove Nettuno Plutone“, the artist’s sole oil-on-plaster painting; the sitting room with competing landscapes by Bril, Viola, Domenichino and Guercino, and a center piece by Pomarancio (all recently digitally reproduced at a major exhibition in Paris’ Grand Palais and at the Prado); Giovanni Luigi Valesio‘s ceiling with “puttini” glorifying Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1632); and of course the stunning “Aurora” fresco of Guercino, with frame by Agostino Tassi.


Gaetana M. Enders coordinated the visit to the Casino, and wrote the article for ARS. Well-known for her decades of high-profile humanitarian and charitable work as well as advocacy for the visual arts, Enders has long been an International Editor of HOLA! and HELLO! magazines, two major weekly publications with a combined readership of eight million.

ARS Magazine is very much a more specialized publication. It describes its goal as “to offer its readers, together with high quality images, unpublished texts of investigators and specialists in painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, collecting, auctions, museums and any other activity that has to do with the world of Art.”


“Our magazine”, continues ARS, “also includes new creations of artists, their latest exhibitions, a guide through the different galleries and auction houses of Europe and the rest of the World, and any information that may be useful for Art lovers. A very important part of ARS Magazine are the collectors. That is the reason why, in each serial number, we carry out an interview to one of them where he talks about his first purchases, his tastes, his favourite pieces and the development of his collections.”


It is certainly fitting that the Spanish publication ARS has devoted a major illustrated article to the Casino Aurora. From the late 16th century on, members of the BoncompagniLudovisi, and Boncompagni Ludovisi benefited particularly from their close association with the Kings of Spain. A substantial segment of the family’s private archives, newly uncovered by Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi in 2010, reveals dossiers of unpublished letters from Kings Philip IIPhilip IVCharles IIPhilip V and Queen Maria Luisa of Savoy, and Charles III and Maria Amalia of Saxony to various members of the Italian noble family. This is in addition to previously unknown letters from many other European sovereigns, including a full 25 from the French monarchs Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette written in the period 1775-1787.


The Villa Ludovisi’s founder, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, died prematurely (indeed, suspiciously) in 1632. Five years later, his brother Niccolò Ludovisi presented King Philip IV of Spain with two choice paintings by Titian from the collection, the “Bacchanal of the Andrians” and the “Worship of Venus”, each now in the Prado. Later, when in 1646 the French invaded Piombino, Philip IV helped Niccolò reconquer it with Spanish help. Philip also created Niccolò the prince of Salerno (1649) and viceroy of Aragona (1660-1662) and Sardinia (1662-1664). Niccolò died on that island in 1664.

But the close relationship of the Boncompagni Ludovisi with the sovereigns of Spain continued for centuries to come. In one spectacular document from 18 October 1739—rediscovered in 2010—King Philip V makes Gaetano Boncompagni Ludovisi (1706-1777, Prince of Piombino III) Grandee of Spain First Class. All subsequent heads of the Boncompagni Ludovisi family—through Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi himself in this generation—have held this high Spanish title.


And there is much more to be said on the relationship of the Boncompagni Ludovisi to Spain, including the crucial fact that Alessandro Ludovisi = Pope Gregory XV (1621-1623) was the one to canonize the Spanish saints Teresa of AvilaFrancis XavierIgnatius Loyola, and Isidore the Farmer, and beatified Peter of Alcantara.

And we expect that every single one of these stories, and more, will appear on this blog…


Bronze medal of Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi), dated 1622-1623, commemorating his canonization of five Spanish saints. Obverse legend: GREGORIVS · XV · PONT · MAX · A · III · Reverse: QVINQVE · BEATIS · COELESTES · HONORES (in exergue) DECERNIT ·


  1. […] Gagliardi clearly was painting with reference to the 17th century tradition, and sensitive to the Guercino and Agostino Tassi work at the Villa Aurora—at least to judge from the various photos. The quality was almost certainly […]

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