Saturday, July 17, 2010
No sooner had I written my last blog than I came across an article in The New York Times on Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, the former Rita Jenrette. I had written about the famous Slim Keith, a woman who personified to me the small-town girl made good.
Well, along came Rita Carpenter, from San Antonio, who took the notion several steps further: She has led many lives, including a Republican Party apparatchik, the wife of a Democratic congressman, a "Playboy" cover model, a television journalist, and a star real estate broker.
Rita educated herself by attending both the University of Texas and Harvard Business School. But I suspect that Rita's successes can be traced more to her street smarts than to traditional academic learning. In 1980 when her first husband, Congressman John Jenrette, was convicted of taking a bribe and imprisoned, she parlayed her moment in the spotlight into television appearances, articles and photos in "Playboy," and two books.
Ms. Jenrette subsequently became a Fox Television journalist on the program "A Current Affair," and then a Manhattan real estate broker. It was in 2003 that she traveled to Rome on real estate business and met Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi.
With her second marriage - in 2009 - she added the title of "Princess." The prince came with a wonderful old castle, the Villa Aurora, which boasts the only ceiling known to have been painted by Caravaggio. Villa Aurora is also home to a collection of masterpieces by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino, whose ceiling fresco, "Aurora," gave the house its name.
The home was built in 1570 and expanded in 1858 to its current 32,000 square feet of living space. This year, with Italy marking the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio's death, the villa is particularly in demand. Although the villa has seen better days (it has suffered water damage to frescoes and to some statues), the prince will not sell, as he is preserving it for his three sons. In the meantime, he has come to an agreement with the Italian government, which has designated the house a national treasure. A multi-million Euro restoration is under way.
The princess is known to give tours of the villa and has brought her American business acumen to bear by suggesting that she and the prince create a line of fragrances named after the villa's famous ceilings. She is also working on a book about the Ludovisi gardens that surround it.
Rita ascended to Roman aristocracy via San Antonio, Washington, D.C., New York, scandal, television, Harvard, real estate, and "Playboy." It's a colorful history.
'Til next time.
at 6:08 PM