Skull reconstruction matches painter Raphael's self-portraits


Art sleuths in Rome create a 3D reconstruction of Renaissance great Raphael’s face solving an age-old mystery about the artist’s final resting place

  • Raffaello Sanizo, or known as Raphael, was a famous Renaissance artist
  • He died in 1520 and where his remains were buried has been a mystery
  • In 1833, a skeleton thought to be Raphael was exhumed from its grave
  • However, the skeleton was buried with a number of other remains
  •  A 3D reconstruction proves to be a match of the late artist’s self-portraits 

The famous Italian painter Raffaello Sanizo, or known as Raphael, died 500 years ago, but the site of his resting place has remained a mystery – until now.

Scientists created a 3D reconstruction of the late artist from a skeleton exhumed in 1833 using a plaster cast of the skull made at the time.

Experts have speculated that Rome’s Pantheon was where Raphael was laid to rest, but the skeleton in question was unearthed with other remains.

Following the reconstruction, the team determined it was a clear match based on portraits by other artists of the period, as well as self-portraits.

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Scientists created a 3D reconstruction of the late artist from a skeleton exhumed in 1833 using a plaster cast of the skull made at the time

Scientists created a 3D reconstruction of the late artist from a skeleton exhumed in 1833 using a plaster cast of the skull made at the time

Raphael was a creator of the High Renaissance and is part of the famous artist trinity along with Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

He was born in Urbino, Italy in 1483 and died at the age of just 37 in 1520.

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The cause of Raphael’s death has also remained a mystery – some speculate his active sex life led him to contract syphilis.

Others theorize that he died from pneumonia after traveling to see a lover in the dead of winter.

Following the reconstruction, the team determined it was a clear match based on portraits by other artists of the period, as well as self-portraits (pictured)

The 3D reconstruction only produced 80 percent of the original face, but the scientists say 'there is no doubt about the results.' Pictured is another self-portrait by Raphael

The 3D reconstruction only produced 80 percent of the original face, but the scientists say ‘there is no doubt about the results.’ Pictured is another self-portrait by Raphael

However, where Raphael’s body was laid to rest has been an age-old mystery.

Scientists at Rome’s Tor Vergata University reconstructed the face of molecular biology expert Mattia Falconi told AFP. man believed to be the late artist.

The 3D reconstruction only produced 80 percent of the original face, but the scientists say ‘there is no doubt about the results.’

Mattia Falconi told AFP: ‘The only part of the face that could not be reconstructed this way were the ears—’but fortunately Raphael had long hair that covered his ears’.

‘We have concrete evidence for the first time that the skeleton exhumed in 1833 belongs to Raffaello Sanzio.’

The new discovery opens up the opportunity to further investigate teh skeleton to determine the correct hair and eye color.

The team was set to re-exhume the body this year, but the project was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘The 3-D model shows the eyes and mouth (in the portraits) are his, but he has been kind to himself about his nose,’ Falconi said.

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‘We know that Raphael often painted himself younger than his years, and this model allows us to see him as he really was’. 

Despite his premature death, Raphael produced a vast library of stunning work, much of it at the Vatican. 



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