Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) was an Italian painter with a life span of only 38 years from 1571 to 1610.

His work is renowned for its combination of realistic observations of the human state (physically and emotionally) and for his dramatic use of chiaroscuro lighting which can be seen below.

Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro is how he would set and enhance the mood in his paintings, he tended to cover his models faces with shadows to, amongst other things, give a sense of doubt and force the viewer to ask questions like ‘Who are these people?’ And ‘What are they doing?’

Caravaggio’s Interesting life history

Caravaggio died at the age of 38 and since his death 400 years ago archaeologists and forensic scientists have been trying to piece together the mystery of how he died. Fairly recently, they have found bones which are strongly believed to be the remains of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and thanks to carbon dating and DNA checks, scientists are 85% sure they are his.

Once tested, Caravaggio’s bones have levels of lead high enough to have driven the painter mad, and eventually have a hand in his early death. “The lead likely came from his paints – he was known to be extremely messy with them,” said Silvano Vinceti, the researcher who announced the findings.

Art historians already suspect that Goya and Van Gogh may also have suffered from the ill effects of the lead in their paints, which can be the cause of depression, pain and personality changes.

During Caravaggio’s short life, he was at the height of his career in Rome when he got into a brawl in 1606 and killed a man. He then fled to Naples and then Malta where he was thrown off the island for more brawling.

Once he returned to Naples, Caravaggio was the victim of a suspected attempt on his life which left him with the wounds Vinceti believes became infected leading to his death.

Now, Caravaggio’s Skull is displayed on a silk red cushion and has been recognised as one of the fathers of modern painting. A recent exhibition of his work at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome this year celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death attracted 580,000 visitors.

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