Caravaggio remains go on display in Italy

The bones of Renaissance master Caravaggio went on public display for the first time on Sunday in this Tuscan port after lying in an unmarked grave nearby for four centuries.

The remains, contained in a crystal urn, arrived in Porto Ercole by boat on Saturday, in a symbolic re-enactment of the voyage which first brought the troubled Lombardy-born painter to Tuscany in the late 16th century.

"I'm happy that he's returned and to be able to give him the burial-place he deserved," said Silvano Vinceti, head of Italy's National Committee for Historical, Cultural and Environmental Heritage, at an official ceremony.

He said the painter's final resting place would "probably" be in his native town of Caravaggio, near Milan.

The urn will be on display for a month in the local Forte Stella alongside a photographic exhibition recounting the stages of a year-long investigation by microbiologists, art historians and anthropologists to determine the bones' identity.

The bones had been kept in a church ossuary in Porto Ercole after being exhumed from an unmarked grave in a local cemetery in 1956.

The team said they were 85 percent certain that the set of bones of a man who died in about 1610, aged between 38 and 40, were of the painter.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was said to have died of malaria in the marshy southern Tuscan region of Maremma in 1610 when not yet 40.

The scientists said their examination of the bones also suggested the artist suffered from syphilis, lead poisoning and sunstroke.

The artist, who revolutionised painting with his "chiaro-scuro" technique - the contrast of shadow and light - is celebrated for works including "Bacchus", "The Supper at Emmaus" and "Sacrifice of Isaac".

Caravaggio's subjects ranged from gambling to biblical episodes, but also illustrated his own turbulent life.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio arrived in Rome poor, then won fame and recognition before suddenly having to leave the city in 1606 after he was involved in a tavern brawl that left a man dead.

Nearly 600,000 people visited an extensive exhibition honouring the quadricentenary of Caravaggio's death that closed in Rome at the weekend.

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