Painted People: A History of Humanity in 21 Tattoos

By Matt Lodder

In 1881, a writer in the Saturday Review called tattooing ‘an art without a history.’ ‘No-one’, it went on, ‘has made it the business of his life to study the development of tattooing.

For all of human history, we have made permanent marks on our skin – for multifarious, fascinating, reasons. The oldest preserved tattooed skin that survives is European: Ötzi, the famous ‘Iceman’ mummy, whose body is covered in small tattoo marks, allows us a brief glimpse into the pre-history of the practice. Since then, people in every corner of the world have decided to tattoo themselves, from the Maori people of New Zealand, the beautiful Irezumi tattoos of Japan and the British aristocrats of the 1920s; all cultures have performed this ancient artistic practice.

But for the most part, these fascinating histories remain stubbornly untold – glorious characters, unbelievable truths and the lives of people from 5000BC to the present day are hidden on the skin, under layers of clothing.

With access to a wealth of new and unreported material, this book will roll up its sleeves and reveal the artwork hidden beneath them. In Painted People, Dr Matt Lodder, one of the world’s foremost experts in tattooing will reveal what tattoos – and the people who wore them – tell us about a changing world.

Painted People is a beguiling and intimate look at this untold history of humanity.

Examples include:
North Africa: Egyptian Mummies
South Africa: Jacobus van Dyn
Philippines: Prince Gialo – The slave of William Dampier
USA: The Great Omi, Madeline Atlman and Aimee Crocker, Janis Joplin.
Spain: Lorenzo, the brother of artist Francisco Goya
Italy: Marco Polo’s writing on tattoos
Russia: Pazyryk Queen
New Zealand: Ritual tattooing of South Sea Islanders & Maoiri people, ‘toi moko’ – the preserved heads of Maori warriors.
Poland: A tattoo artist living in a POW camp in WW2
Canada: Indigenous Inuit tattoo practice
Japan: Hori Chiyo