A 16th century Italian painter is being hailed as the first master of photographic technique, according to numerous press reports.

Caravaggio projected images of his subjects on to ‘light-sensitive’ canvasses to help him create his art works, according to Florence-based art conservation expert Roberta Lapucci.

It was already known that the artist used a camera obscura to project the images.

But Lapucci said researchers have now found traces of light-sensitive ‘mercury salt’ in his canvasses.

Caravaggio is thought to have used a white lead paint, mixed with luminous ‘barium sulphate’, to help him see where he was sketching.