No rest for Caravaggio

Documents show that the Italian artist was admitted to a hospital and died three days later from an illness. So what's all this about a murder?

Claims by Italian archeologists that they are about to solve one of the greatest murder mysteries in the history of art are nonsense, according to the respected British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon. "The whole thing is academic," he says. Last month a team of archeologists led by the anthropology professor Georgio Gruppioni claimed to have recovered the remains of the Renaissance artist Caravaggio. They announced plans to use scientific tests to check that the artist's remains were genuine and finally discover whether he died of typhus, collapsed on the beach of malaria or was assassinated, as some experts have suggested.

"We will check the DNA extracted from the bones and teeth for possible matches against that of the painter's male descendants," Gruppioni told Reuters. His team would then use carbon-dating technology to find out how Caravaggio died, he said. Gruppioni famously reconstructed the face of the medieval poet Dante Alighieri in 2007. But, according to Graham-Dixon, one of the world's leading experts on art history, who presented a 2002 BBC TV show called Who Killed Caravaggio?, the archaeologists are barking up the wrong tree.

"In my view, there's no way in hell they can say they have found Caravaggio's remains," he says. "What's the proof? They found a headstone saying: 'Here Lies Caravaggio'?" In 2001, a researcher discovered the artist's death certificate, which said that he died in 1610 of "illness" after three days in hospital. "This historical document shows Caravaggio did not die alone on the beach," Silvano Vinceti, the head of the Italian National Committee for Cultural Heritage, told Reuters.

Based on the death certificate, Italian researchers deduced that Caravaggio's body must have been buried in the tiny San Sebastiano cemetery in Tuscany. In 1956, bodies buried at the graveyard were moved to a nearby town, Porto Ercole, Caravaggio's among them. His remains were kept in an ossuary in the crypt of the church there, said authorities, until they were recently discovered. Graham-Dixon does not believe a word of it.

"The death certificate - which is fake - wouldn't give a location even if it weren't fake, so how did they choose the particular grave they did to dig up?" he said. "I'm sorry, but I think the whole thing is a Porto Ercole tourist board gimmick. I would like to know more hard evidence and argument for the idea that the bones are his bones. Until someone produces that, the whole thing is academic."

Many observers believe that Caravaggio, who was famous for his wild drinking and brawling, did not die of illness or disease but was murdered while returning to Rome to seek papal pardon for slaying a rival over a game of tennis. But, according to Graham-Dixon, Ranuccio Tomassoni did not die in 1606 over a game of tennis, but bled to death after Caravaggio made a bungled attempt to castrate him, following an argument over Fillide Melandroni, a courtesan. After being charged with the murder, Caravaggio fled to Malta, where he was convicted of grievous bodily harm against a knight. Then, according to some scholars, he fled to Porto Ercole, where he died.

Which death theory you believe will dictate your attitude to the recent finding of his remains, says Graham-Dixon, whose own biography of Caravaggio will be published by Penguin on the day of Caravaggio's death, in July this year. "If Caravaggio was murdered, he was certainly never in Porto Ercole," he says. "The one thing that can be said is that if they find him there then he died, as the legend says, of heat exhaustion or some other disease on the beach."

Caravaggio was born in 1571, the son of a mason in Lombardy. He was the last great master of the Italian Renaissance and pioneered the baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted. Paintings such as Bacchus, The Supper at Emmaus and Sacrifice of Isaac were criticised at the time for their expressionist style but have influenced artists ever since.

A towering figure in the art world, Caravaggio nevertheless passed away more than 400 years ago, so why do historians and anthropologists still care how he died? "He's a gripping man, and his story is truly amazing, because not only was he one of the two or three greatest and most original painters ever to have lived, but he had the most bizarrely eventful life - including a murder and an amazing midnight jailbreak from the fortress island of Malta - of any major creative figure in all of history," said Graham-Dixon.

"And that includes Vincent Van Ear Off," he added.

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.

Volunteers offer workers a lifeline

Community volunteers have swung into action delivering food packages and toiletries to the men.

When provisions are distributed, the men line up in long queues for packets of rice, flour, sugar, salt, pulses, milk, biscuits, shaving kits, soap and telecom cards.

Volunteers from St Mary’s Catholic Church said some workers came to the church to pray for their families and ask for assistance.

Boxes packed with essential food items were distributed to workers in the Dubai Investments Park and Ras Al Khaimah camps last week. Workers at the Sonapur camp asked for Dh1,600 towards their gas bill.

“Especially in this year of tolerance we consider ourselves privileged to be able to lend a helping hand to our needy brothers in the Actco camp," Father Lennie Connully, parish priest of St Mary’s.

Workers spoke of their helplessness, seeing children’s marriages cancelled because of lack of money going home. Others told of their misery of being unable to return home when a parent died.

“More than daily food, they are worried about not sending money home for their family,” said Kusum Dutta, a volunteer who works with the Indian consulate.