DNA tests could solve mystery of Caravaggio's death

Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:25pm EST
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By Ella Ide

ROME (Reuters Life!) -The mystery surrounding the death of Baroque master Caravaggio may soon be resolved thanks to new DNA tests -- as long as the right body can be found.

What caused the death of the painter in 1610 and the whereabouts of his corpse have always been unclear.

But a team of Italian anthropologists believe that what is left of Caravaggio's body may be hidden among dozens of bodies buried in a crypt in Tuscany, thanks to recent historical clues.

The team -- armed with a CAT scan and kits for carbon dating -- plan to study the painter's exhumed remains to discover how he died.

"If we are lucky enough to find Caravaggio's skull, we will also be able to do a reconstruction of his face, just as we did in 2007 for Dante Alighieri," Silvano Vinceti, head of the National Committee for Cultural Heritage, told Reuters.

The only images of the artist available until now have been self-portraits.

Scholars have put forward many theories about Caravaggio's death. The most popular are that the painter was assassinated for religious reasons or collapsed with malaria on a deserted Tuscan beach.

However, in 2001 an Italian researcher claimed to have found the painter's death certificate, which allegedly proved that he died in hospital.   Continued...

<p>A gallery attendant poses for photographers as he stands next to the "The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew" painting by Caravaggio (L), during a photocall for the forthcoming "The Art of Italy in the Royal Collection" exhibition at The Queens Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland November 12, 2008. REUTERS/David Moir</p>