Italian Painter Raphael died from medical error, historians find

Medical historians have found that Italian painter Raphael’s premature death was partly the result of a medical error.

Renaissance master Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino is thought to have been 37 when the contracted a fever and died in Rome on April 6, 1520.

Historians at the University of Milan-Bicocca who have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the painter’s demise have now concluded that bloodletting, the medical practice of withdrawing blood that was popular at the time for treating diseases, would have further debilitated Raphael who likely had pneumonia.

The historians’ findings were published this week in Internal and Emergency Medicine, the journal of the Italian Society of Internal Medicine (Simi), where the authors identify pneumonia as the fever Raphael was suffering from, as opposed to other hypotheses such as syphilis. The study suggests, however, that as the painter did not explain his disease to the physician, bloodletting was used incorrectly as a treatment.

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Rebecca Ann Hughes

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