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The truth was hidden in his teeth.
A serial gambler with a penchant for prostitutes, booze, and brawls, art historians have largely agreed for the last four centuries that Caravaggio died of syphilis in 1610. However, new research conducted by a team of seven French and Italian scientists at the IHU Méditerranée Infection Institute of Marseille and published in one of the world’s leading peer-reviewed medical journals, The Lancet, has concluded that the irascible artist ultimately succumbed to an infected sword wound.
The killer, in this case, was staphylococcus. Researchers were able to detect the bacteria through microbes extracted from the remaining blood vessels within the Baroque artist’s teeth.
Caravaggio was born Michelangelo Merisi in 1571 near Milan. Having already gained substantial acclaim as a painter by his early twenties, he was the toast of Rome before fleeing the eternal city in 1606 after killing another man in a street fight. He then traveled through southern Italy as an exile and fugitive, wandering through places like Malta and Sicily.
But finding Caravaggio’s skeleton was the first challenge for this team of scientists to overcome. Tracking his body to a cemetery in Porte Ercole (where the artist died after fleeing Naples) researchers screened remains for a male of 1.65 meters (~5 feet and 5 inches) in height between the ages of 35 and 40. Nine were found in total, but only one dated from the seventeenth century, according to a carbon 14 test. One of the study’s authors, Michel Drancourt, confirmed with the newspaper El País that genetic comparisons with other inhabitants of Porte Ercole bearing the surname Caravaggio verified the match.
Particularly helpful in confirming the match was a strong presence of lead in the skeleton’s bones. Caravaggio was known to be careless when using lead for painting, and some scholars have even speculated that he died of poisoning from the substance despite contemporary reports that the painter died of a fever.
The University of Virginia researchers wrote that the data “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate.”
We are waiting for spectacle and when the quotidian, yet incongruous actions occur I wonder whether there is any real payoff coming.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
Tanega’s approach to mark-making comes across as stream of consciousness, as if she’s engaged in a conversation with herself.
Starting Monday, readers can borrow one of 50 rare and out-of-print titles, mailed to them completely free of charge, from Saint Heron Library.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
This is Yuskavage’s great gift, turning upside down our settled ways of thinking and seeing and, with ease, transforming the vulgar and ridiculous into the sublime.
51 international publishers and galleries showcase their latest editions in prints and artists’ books at this free public fair, which is fully online this year.
While hardly about the pandemic, or any of the other crises so afflicting us, all are invoked in this exhibition, which is also often tender and profoundly soulful.
These glowing, dynamic artworks reproduce something of Bosch’s chaotic energy, but on an immersive, multi-sensory scale.
This week, addressing a transphobic comedy special on Netflix, the story behind KKK hoods, cultural identity fraud, an anti-Semitic take on modern art, and more.