New from 1855-1858: Masterwork of Pietro Gagliardi for Antonio Boncompagni Ludovisi (Prince of Piombino 1841-1883) rediscovered


Newly-revealed decorative Telamon, from NE corner of Salone of Piano Nobile, Casino Aurora. All photos from collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Avid readers of the blog may remember the quest for the lost frescoed ceiling of Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890) depicting scenes from the life of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni that he executed in the Casino Aurora in the years 1855-1858. (If you don’t, here is Part I and Part II.)

Well here ’tis.


Newly-revealed portrait of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1621-1632), from east wall of Salone of Piano Nobile, Casino Aurora

In September 2012 Corey Brennan discovered photographic proof (from 1904) of the existence of this ceiling, and from the photos and various written accounts identified the scenes, painter and date, and posited two possible locations in the Casino Aurora.

A combination of Anthony Majanlahti’s minute examination of the Villa Aurora’s floor plans and Corey Brennan’s discovery of further written accounts forced the conclusion that the missing frescoes must be well above a modern (post WW II) drop ceiling in the former salone of the piano nobile, which was spectacularly confirmed on 11 June 2016.


Newly-revealed depiction of first Japanese embassy to the west (1585), from N wall of Salone of Piano Nobile, Casino Aurora

Deep thanks as always are owed to HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, who have encouraged this research for many years.

More to follow!

Photo credits for all color images in this post: Simeon Rykembusch. Special thanks for expert advice on the iconography of the Embassy scene: Dr. Mayu Fujisawa (European University Institute).

Additional thanks to Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi board member Professor Bernard Frischer, and also Matthew Brennan (both Indiana University) for technical support on day of find.


Several US newspapers in January-March 1904 ran a feature on the Casino Aurora that contained a photo of its upper Salone as decorated by Pietro Gagliardi in 1855-1858, no longer visible today. This was the clue that started this investigation



Two photos above: view of  S wall (Gregory XIII’s calendar reform of 1582) and N Wall (Japanese Tensho Embassy of 1585) of Casino Aurora’s Salone of Piano Nobile, long obscured by post WW II drop ceiling

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