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Caravaggio CSI Update: With Samples Headed to The Lab, We Enter The Penultimate Chapter

Yes, the mystery of Caravaggio’s death is reaching its semi-exciting climax as blood drawn from likely decedents of the chiaroscuro painter with the rock-star reputation are even now being compared to DNA samples taken from bones found in the ossuary underneath the church at Porto Ercole on the Tuscan coast, commonly believed his last resting place. And where did they find potential blood relatives of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio? Why, the northern Italian town of Caravaggio, of course. Seems a half dozen of the residents of the ancient village can trace their ancestry back to the time of the great painter. Such is the advantage of being a genetic detective in a country where many local populations and much of the national infrastructure have remained relatively stable for over 2,000 years (for example the spine of the Italian highway system is itself based on ancient Roman roads). If there’s a match between the calcified remains below the Porto Ercole church and the blood samples, we should know in a couple of months. Said one researcher, “If all goes well, we hope to get the definitive answer in May… This is the last occasion, if we don’t manage with all the work and research that we have done, no else can after.” So, the next thing you should hear about the centuries-long mystery of Caravaggio’s death would be the identification of his remains. From there, a complete inspection of his bones could reveal his cause of death in a matter of weeks. Fingers crossed, the answer to one art’s great questions could arrive just before the 400th anniversary of the painter’s death—July, 18th.
For a full survey of Caravaggio’s wild life, join our walking tour of his days in Rome available in our newly released, “ART + TRAVEL EUROPE: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters”.

Caravaggio Investigation to Show Definitive Results in May (Artdaily.org)
Image: Possible descendants of Caravaggio offer blood samples to researchers in Caravaggio, Italy earlier this month. Courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo.

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