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March 12, 2010

What's More Riveting Than a 400-Year-Old Corpse?

While some of us are basking in an all-William-Kentridge-all-the-time moment, the matter of who and/or what killed Caravaggio demands our contemplation as well. Granted, this is a 400-year-old mystery, yet it made a strong bid for renewed attention this week, notably with Stacy Meichtry's terrific Wall Street Journal piece on Silvano Vinceti, the Italian TV host who's leading the charge to dig up as many graves as necessary in order to find the artist's ancient bones. (Footnote: "Mr. Vinceti recently announced plans to unearth Leonardo da Vinci. His goal: debunk claims that the Mona Lisa is a self-portrait of the painter and, if possible, prove he was a vegetarian--a hunch Mr. Vinceti has had for years." So: Get your shovels ready for that.)

As Michael Day reports in The Independent, "researchers from the universities of Ravenna and Bologna have prepared DNA tests on the corpses in a Tuscan crypt that many believe contains [Caravaggio's] remains. They have already narrowed their investigation down to nine corpses, which have been sent to Ravenna for carbon-dating."

Reuters' Marie-Louise Gumuchian duly visits the Italian town of Caravaggio, where "a team of Italian anthropologists" went this week to conduct DNA "tests with possible descendents -- some of them carrying derivations of the family name. As Caravaggio died childless the team looked for the painter's closest blood descendents in search of a match."

Meanwhile, in The New York Times, Michael Kimmelman largely ignores the quest for the artist's remains in favor of discussing his work -- including the argument that "Caravaggio has gradually, if unevenly, overtaken Michelangelo."

March 12, 2010 2:24 PM | | Comments (0)

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