Have the Bones of Caravaggio Been Discovered?

Italian archaeologists are claiming to have discovered the remains of the last great Italian renaissance artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (1571–1610), whose influence is credited with inspiring the Baroque painting style of the late 16th-18th centuries. 

Caravaggio’s paintings are especially known for their dark, brooding shadows and the contrasts of dark and light which are known as the chiaroscuro style. 

But in addition to being an artist of legendary talent, Caravaggio apparently had a rather sordid personal life and seems constantly to have been in trouble, fighting brawls, fleeing from one place to another, and even being accused of murder.  

Some are convinced in fact that the great Caravaggio himself was murdered, though the Italian archaeological team led by Georgio Gruppioni, which claims to have found his remains, believes they have documentation — in the form of a death certificate — that he died of natural causes.

Comparison with the DNA of Caravaggio’s descendants will be employed to prove or disprove the identity of the remains, which were originally buried at San Sebastiano and later moved to a crypt in a church in Porto Ercole.  The bones were apparently in an unmarked ossuary.    

However, British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon is skeptical that the bones are really those of the famous artist.  “In my view, there’s no way in hell they can say they have found Caravaggio’s remains,” he says. “What’s the proof? They found a headstone saying: ‘Here Lies Caravaggio’?”  And he claims the death certificate is fake.

Nonetheless, everyone seems to be in agreement that Caravaggio was a towering figure — Graham-Dixon calls him “one of the two or three greatest and most original painters ever to have lived.”

If you’d like to learn more about Caravaggio, Greensboro Public Library has a few books which may be of interest, including The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr, Caravaggo:  Painter Of Miracles by Francine Prose, M:  The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Peter Robb, and Caravaggio by Catherine Puglisi.

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5 Responses

  1. Great post. I never heard of him until I watched Simon Schama’s Power of Art series a few years ago. Great story.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

  3. […] of the Charts” Posted on March 10, 2010 by pdurham000 In a brief follow-up to a recent post, check out this neat article from the New York Times analyzing the rising popularity of the Italian […]

  4. […] famous late Italian Renaissance painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610).  It seems archaeologists believe they may have found his bones, located in a crypt at Porto […]

  5. […] any rate, if you’re interested in reading about Caravaggio, follow this link to a previous post which lists some of Greensboro Public Library’s books on the great […]

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