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Tuscan remains 'almost certainly Caravaggio's'

17th June 2010

Human remains discovered in a Tuscan church are almost certainly those of Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

The researchers who have been studying the bones, which were first exhumed in 1956 at a church cemetery in Porto Ercole, have said they are 85 per cent certain they belong to the painter.

Carbon dating techniques have been used to confirm the age of the bones and other tests have pointed to a possible cause of death - lead poisoning.

Silvano Vinceti, one of the researchers from the four-university team conducting the investigation, told the Guardian: 'Lead poisoning won't kill you on its own - we believe he had infected wounds and sunstroke too - but it was one of the causes.'

'The lead likely came from his paints - he was known to be extremely messy with them,' he added.

Lead poisoning could explain contemporary accounts of the artist's increasingly erratic behaviour prior to his death in 1610. High concentrations of lead in the body are known to cause depression, mood swings and chronic pain.

Born in 1571, the master's influence on Western art was huge and after his death Caravaggio was credited with kick-starting the Baroque movement. His epitaph, composed by good friend Marzio Milesi read 'Caravaggio - in painting not equal to a painter, but to Nature itself'.

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