Human skin tattooed with two women's heads and a sailor, France, 1880-1920

1880-1920 in France

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Human skin tattooed with 2 women's heads with hats, and half of full length figure of sailor, French, 1880-1920, purchased from La Valette in 1929

Images of a sailor and two women wearing hats have been tattooed on to human skin. The skin was purchased by one of Henry Wellcome’s collecting agents, Captain Johnston-Saint, 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.


Anatomy & Pathology
Object Number:
  • visual and verbal communication
Wellcome Trust
Loan: Wellcome Trust

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