The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hunt for face behind bard’s verse

Rome, Nov. 3: Petrarch, the Italian poet and humanist who so inspired William Shakespeare’s verse, is to be exhumed from his grave more than 600 years after his death to esta- blish his medical history and what he really looked like.

It is not known whether portraits of Petrarch were based on contemporary images and experts are hoping to rebuild his face using scientific methods.

The experts are also keen to learn if the poet really did fall from his horse, as legend holds, and whether his tomb situated near Padua was bro- ken into in the 17th century and his arm hacked off as a souvenir.

The exhumation is due in three weeks’ time as part of a project sponsored by a local bank and co-ordinated by Vito Terribile Wiel Marin, anatomopathology professor at Padua University.

Petrarch, who is considered the first modern poet and the father of humanism, perfec- ted the 14-line form, popularly known as the Petrarchan son-net, which greatly influenced Chaucer, Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser.

It set the formula of a octet and sextet making up a poem divided into two parts which respectively pose a problem and offer a solution. It also established the genre’s standard subject matter of unrequited love.

Born in Tuscany, the poet is believed to have died slum- ped over his desk, pen in hand, in his library at his daughter’s home in Arqua, near Padua, aged 70.

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