It seems like everyone is getting inked these days. From Taylor Swift to Rosie Huntington-Whitely, the stars are adorned with fresh new tattoos. But what about the men? Do they get inked too? Who has had the most tattoos out of all time? Let’s take a quick look at the history of tattoos and find out.
Early History Of Tattoos
It would be fair to say that tattoos have never been entirely popularized in Europe. That is, until about the 16th century. It wasn’t until that point that people started getting inked on a regular basis. Up until that time, people would get tattoos as a way to ward off evil spirits and otherworldly creatures. Many still do so. There is even a belief that the Vatican bans tattoos due to their occult symbolism. However, not long after this cultural shift, Europeans started to see the benefits of body art and adopted it as a lifestyle choice. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that people started to feel that there was a stigma attached to being tattooed. Even then, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that people started to feel confident enough to get inked in public. Since then, it has become a regular part of popular culture, with celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Kurt Cobain sporting some pretty elaborate ink. Here’s a quick look at some of the most influential people in history and the stories behind their iconic tattoos.
Father Of Modern Tattoo: Honoré Daumier
The father of modern tattoo is undoubtedly Honoré Daumier. He is credited with creating the “Tatoo-Dyeing” process. This is how daumier’s tattoos came to life. Instead of relying on someone else to do the painting for you, like he had done in the past, Daumier took it upon himself to draw the images on his body. With his busy schedule as a legal advisor to the French Government and a published poet, it is no surprise that he developed this process of tattooing. What is surprising is that he got to choose the subjects for his tattoos. He used to get his family, friends and historical figures. However, starting in 1840, he started getting imagery that was inspired by contemporary society. This included scenes of prostitutes and courtesans. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the stigma surrounding tattoos had truly dissolved. In fact, it was during this time that Daumier began getting work done by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He based this work on the premise that black is the best color for tattoos, as it blends in with the skin tone and doesn’t show up when washed with water. Unfortunately, a lot of Daumier’s tattoos were lost in a fire. Fortunately, the fire department was able to save one of his paintings, which is on display at the Frick Collection in New York City. This is one of the only known pieces of artwork by Daumier. The rest of his work can only be seen in photographs or replicas.
The Great Escape: George Burchett
Another man who had a profound effect on modern tattoo is George Burchett. You may know him as the man who escaped from prison (twice!). Burchett was an Englishman who had spent more than a decade in prison. The first time he escaped, he was disguised as a sailor and made his way to Australia, where he lived for the rest of his life. After his first escape, Burchett was on the run for the next six years. During this time, he got a taste for adventure and exploration. He traveled the world and even went to the Arctic Circle to search for the fabled Northwest Passage. It was on one of these excursions that he got frostbite and almost died. While hospitalized, he met a Tibetan doctor who gave him treatments that helped him recover. However, this also had the effect of making him sleepy and less alert. Seeing as how this was the mid-19th century, it is likely that Burchett was under the impression that he was protected by a magic spell. In actuality, the doctor had put a sleeping draught in his cup of tea. Regardless, this is where Burchett’s second escape story begins. After waking up from his drugged slumber, he decided that he would try for a third escape. This time he would use his considerable athletic skills to make his way to freedom. For the next three years, he trained rigorously and spent a great deal of time in the wilderness. Much like Daumier, he was also inspired by contemporary art and literature. Some of his tattoos were even done by the author of his favorite book, Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. This is because Kipling was one of the judges of the prize that Burchett won for his drawings. He was eventually caught and sent back to prison. However, as his second stint in prison was proving to be quite fruitful, he was able to draw many tattoos for his fellow inmates. While in prison, he also got married and had a son. Sadly, his wife died after only a few weeks of her wedding day. It was around this time that he realized that he wasn’t invincible and that old age could come knocking at any time. This is why he began getting tattoos done by his son, who would act as his pallbearer at his funeral. Burchett’s extensive body work is on display at the British Museum in London. The collection is called “The Great Escape” and it has been there since 1960. If you’re ever in London, make sure to check it out. There are actually a lot of interesting stories behind the tattoos on display there. One of the more tragic stories is that of Charles Manson. Manson was an inmate at the California State Prison in Los Angeles. He met Burchett while both were incarcerated there and the two became fast friends. It was while celebrating Burchett’s 40th birthday that Manson orchestrated one of the most infamous crimes in modern history. On August 9th, 1969, he had his minions kill five people (including three children) for “religious reasons”. Two weeks later, he was arrested and sentenced to death. While on death row, he had a habit of getting tattoos and having them done by professional artists. He would often pick a theme for these tattoos, such as skulls, flowers or the number 42, in the hope that it would help him remember his crimes. In one of his last acts, he had a black rose tattooed on his forehead in the shape of a “7”. Unfortunately, this was one of the tattoos that he had picked out because it was the number for his favorite movie, The Seven Samurai. Since then, no one has been able to look at him in the same way. His unfortunate death was one of the major factors that contributed to the downfall of the Manson family. However, as grim as this story is, it makes for a great tattoo!
The Most Influential Personality In History: Salvador Dali
If you’re interested in knowing more about the most influential person in history, you have to look no further than Salvador Dali. Dali is most well known for his eccentricities, such as his fascination with clocks, his interest in puzzles and his paintings. However, it was his tattoos that put him on this list. If we were to pick a theme for this article, it would have to be images of clocks. It seems like Dali got inked a lot while he was in prison. For the next 15 years of his life, he would get little images, such as a watch or a pair of scales, tattooed on his body. One of the more intriguing stories about Dali is that he was kicked out of the Roman Catholic Church for his irreverent attitude. He was also a member of Opus Dei, a group of high-profile individuals who were branded as fascists because of their adherence to strict rules and their powerful presence in industry. Despite his many controversies and eccentricities, Dali found success and admiration in Europe and North America. In particular, his images of watches and other timepieces were highly sought-after because of their graphic and vivid nature. Dali’s body art can be seen in many major museums, including the Louvre and the Tate Modern in London. He even had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2014. If you’re a fan of Dali’s artwork and you want to get inked, there are a few places that you can find a reputable tattoo artist. Not only will you get to enjoy the amazing imagery that comes from a classic Spanish artist, but you will also be helping to save art history!