Thursday, 17 June 2010


Scientists have unearthed the bones of 17th Century Italian artist Caravaggio from a Tuscan cemetary. It seems Caravaggio had quite a colourful life. History tells us he killed a man, brawled constantly, and rowed with most people. And just to underline how dramatic Caravaggio's short life was, researchers say he may quite literally have died for his art. Having taken DNA samples from the bones, scientists found levels of lead high enough to drive the painter mad and certainly helped to finish him off. The lead was likely to have been added to his paints and would have contributed to his death. Art historians already suspect that Goya and Van Gogh may also have suffered from the ill effects of lead in their paint causing depression, pain and personality change. I supposed it goes some way in explaining Van Gogh's penchant for removing parts of his body with a sharp knife. 
Scientists also say that lead poisoning didn't kill Caravaggio. What killed him was infected wounds (possibly from brawling with errant husbands of his love interests) and the scourge of the times...syphillis. So, one of the fathers of modern painting was a brawling, slightly mad, clap-ridden, womanizing scrapper. The Italian Oliver Reed. The research on Caravaggio's bones certainly goes some way in explaining the 'madness' so closely associated with artists through the generations. It sure explains the Turner Prize for Art and Tracy Emin. Italian scientists are now negotiating access to Leonardo da Vinci's tomb in the hope of finding cause of death and to create a facial reconstruction.

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