Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Caravaggio's remains are retrieved by scientists

Italian geologist Antonio Moretti
The bones have been taken from a cemetery in Porto Ercole

The remains of Renaissance artist Caravaggio have been retrieved by Italian scientists hoping to find out more about his death.

They had been housed in a special container called an ossuary in the town of Porto Ercole in Italy.

The bones have now been taken to the University of Bologna where they will compared with those of his descendents.

They will then go on show until January 24 in Rome's Borghese gallery before being placed in another burial site.

The new resting place for Caravaggio has yet to be announced.

Mystery death

The project is being led by anthropology professor Georgio Grupponi, who also worked on the reconstruction of the face of the Middle Ages poet Dante Alighieri that was unveiled in 2007.

The cause of Caravaggio's death has been something of a mystery - various theories have been advanced over the years.

Among the most common are that he was assassinated for religious reasons, and that he collapsed with malaria on a deserted beach.

One scholar believes he may have died from typhus in hospital in 1610.

Caravaggio pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted.

But it was his wild lifestyle that has captured just as many imaginations as his art the years.

He was famed for starting brawls, often ended up in jail, and even killed a man.

He was allegedly on his way to Rome to seek a pardon when he died.

He was born in 1571 or 1573, depending on which history text one reads, and spent the last few years of his life fleeing justice in southern Italy.

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