Human skin with various tattoos

Made:
1830-1900 in France
maker:
Unknown

Human skin from whole chest of man, tattooed with various motifs, French, 1830-1900, purchased from La Valette in 1929

Tattooed with a figure of a man with a large dagger surrounded by female angels with trumpets, this piece of human skin was purchased by one of Henry Wellcome’s collecting agents. The agent was Captain Johnston-Saint, who bought it in June 1929 from Dr Villette, a Parisian surgeon. Villette worked in military hospitals and collected and preserved hundreds of samples from the autopsies of French soldiers. In the late 1800s, tattoos were often seen as markers of criminal tendencies, or ‘primitiveness’. Medical men tried to interpret common images and symbols. Tattoos were also used as a tool for identification, a practice that continues today.

Details

Category:
Anatomy & Pathology
Object Number:
A526
Measurements:
overall (in frame): 472 mm x 472 mm x 42 mm, 3.32 kg
type:
tattoo
taxonomy:
  • visual and verbal communication
credit:
Wellcome Trust