They say that artists should suffer for their art, but it appears that Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio took the idea a little too seriously as scientists now believe he was killed by his own painting.
While the artist, who was renowned for his hard drinking and general roguery, was rumoured to have died from syphilis or even sunstroke, it appears that lead from one of his paintings was the real culprit.
After discovering a document in Porto Ecole describing the remains of several people who had been buried in a crypt beneath a nearby church, scientists embarked on a spot of Indiana Jones style crypt-bothering which ended with the uncovering of a collection of bones, one set of which was believed to have been Caravaggio’s.
“Set number five turned out to be from a tall man – Caravaggio was described as such – while tests showed he was a man between 38 and 40 and died around 1600,” said Silvano Vinceti, one of the researchers involved in the project.
Scientists then spent 18 months trying to confirm his identity using carbon dating and DNA testing which led them to believe that they had solved the 400 year old mystery of Caravaggio’s final days.
“Using the information we had to hand, including age, build and height we found elements that would suggest the remains are 85 per cent certain those of Caravaggio,” said Professor Giorgio Gruppioni who led the investigation.
“Another indication was the high level of lead in the bones, as it is known the oil paints Caravaggio used contained high amounts of lead and this may have even contributed to his death.”
“Lead poisoning induces aggressive and violent behaviour which were well known traits of Caravaggio and methods we used were very similar to ones used by detectives solving crimes.”