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Human skin with various tattoos.

A table set with a knife, fork, wine, a bunch of roses and a hand grasping a dagger are tattooed on to human skin. The tattooed 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.

Object number:

A542

Related Themes and Topics

 

Glossary:

Glossary: human remains

term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

Glossary: tattoo

Marking the skin with a design by puncturing it and inserting pigment. On humans a tattoo is often a form of decoration, but on animals it is usually a form of marking or branding.

Glossary: post mortem

A medical procedure that consists of an examination to discover the cause and manner of a death.