Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Victorian Tattoos - Taboo?
Strange the things you uncover on the Internet. Apparently in 1862, a celebrity began the tattoo "cool" faze of the 19th Century when Edward the VII returned home from Jerusalem with a Holy Cross tattoo and his sons joined the ranks of tattooing in later years. In 1882 George V was marked by a dragon tattoo on his arm after a visit to Japan.
Between 1870-1890 tattooing wasn't just for the brawlers but for young women--intricate designs marked on their legs--and for men of upper social class. Charles Darwin on his journeys, concluded that not a nation has been left untouched by the art of tattooing. The art. Curious.
While religious factions referred to passages in the Old Testament where tattoos were joined in union with heathenism, some of the leading heads of society also frowned on the occasion. But, from the prostitute to Winston Churchill's mother, even women embellished their bodies with ink. Of course, on the upper class elite, they weren't typically sported in brazen display. Creatively inked to be hidden beneath jewelry or other clothing, even men of society maintained an un-inked public display. This lends toward the popular belief that it was unpopular and rather scandalous to be tattooed if you weren't engaged in shady practices or uncouth careers.
So, I believe it's safe to say that while the explosion of tattoos as a form of body art makes its very public appearance in the 20th and 21st centuries, the 19th century was most definitely setting the stage for this explosion of self expression. I find it intriguing that even then, people dabbled with the rebellious side ;) even while hiding it beneath their petticoats and dinner coats.
I'm still waiting to see a character on Downton Abbey appear with a tattoo, for I must admit, if I appeared with a tattoo, my mother would skin me alive! ;)