Saturday, November 29th, 2008
Death of the Caravaggio
On Thanksgiving evening, the family was gathered around B’s iPhone, answering questions to online geography quizzes. J and I vied to do an art quiz, and I found myself stumped on one of the questions:
Caravaggio died of what disease?
I was embarrassed that I didn’t know the answer to this question, since I’m an art historian who claims Caravaggio as my favorite painter. However, after doing some research, it looks like the circumstances surrounding Caravaggio’s death are uncertain. The art history quiz cited “malaria” as the correct answer, but a relatively recent discovery of Caravaggio’s death certificate has led an Italian researcher to propose that the artist died of typhus. Taking into consideration the change in calendar, this certificate places Caravaggio’s death as July 18, 1610. Therefore, the period between Caravaggio’s arrival at malaria-infested Porto Ercole and his death would not have allowed time for malaria to sufficiently incubate. It appears that typhus is a more logical cause for the recorded “illness” that caused Caravaggio’s death.
Note: The cause of Caravaggio’s death is something completely different from the Caravaggio disease, something that I’m pretty sure I have contracted.