Page 1

The world of


Maarten Hesselt van Dinter

The world of


Maarten Hesselt van Dinter

Maarten Hesselt van Dinter



contents 01 Europe

02 China and Japan


03 Southeast Asia 04 India



Europe Chapter 1

Mural by Diego Rivera, c. 1930, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City

Not one country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to New Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo themselves. This practice was followed by the Jews of old, and by the ancient Britons. In Africa some of the natives tattoo themselves, but it is a much more common practice to raise protuberances by rubbing salt into incisions made in various parts of the body; and these are considered by the inhabitants of Kordofan and Darfur to be great personal attractions. In the Arab countries no beauty can be perfect until the cheeks ‘or temples have been gashed’ It is difficult to imagine now, but this quote from Charles Darwin’s great work The Descent of Man illustrates how widespread the phenomenon of tattooing once was. There was no tribe or population group whose members did not decorate their bodies in some way, be it with paint, tattoos or scars.

Fun Fact: Once incredibly popular, tribal tattoo work has now settled into a niche, superseded by trendy colour work. It has not however, lost its appeal: if anything, going back to basics has allowed the genre to rediscover its roots and become more ethnically grounded than in the 1980s and 1990s, when it became so ubiquitous that it rather lost its way.

Britannia, Land of the Painted People Even if a more conventional design is chosen, such as a red rose, the background will often be decorated with a ‘Tribal’ Tattooists draw freely from the heritages of various cultures when creating designs. Now, striking hybrids such as chequered Hawaiian chest markings combined with a Philippine shoulder band are acceptable. In the West, the decorative qualities of the designs are considered more important than their original symbolic meaning.

Fantasy image of a female Pict, 17th century

Tattoo designs common among ancient


tribes are now frequently seen adorning modern cosmopolitans.

With ancient roots, tattooing in Europe has a fascinating history. It is a tale of uneven development. The continent was repeatedly affected by influences that washed like waves over the land and then retreated, sometimes leaving pools behind. From a social perspective, the meaning of tattoos has varied. At times, a decorative tattoo was a status symbol of the upper classes, while at others, it was a stigma associated with convicts and deserters. Christianity deplored the decorative tattoo as bodily mutilation and prohibited it, but the Middle Ages saw the emergence of the pilgrim tattoo that proudly proclaimed the completion of a pilgrimage. These polarized reactions are doubtless related to the severity of the act of tattooing itself. Europe has always been influenced by cultures beyond its borders. In ancient times, maraudin Asian tribes invaded Eastern Europe; from the sixteenth century explorers returned with stories and with decorated natives of the exotic coral islands of the South Pacific; in the nineteenth century, the elite were won over by the sophisticated Japanese tattoo culture.

‘Prince Constantine’ South American Indians were brought to Europe to appear in the wedding procession of Frederic von Wurttemberg and Countess Barbara Sophia von Brandenburg in 1609. They wore feathered skirts and had tattoos on their chests, upper arms and calves.



Christian Practices in the Middle Ages

In Early Christian times, two eminently Christian symbols, the fish and the cross, were of ten the subject of tattoos. The precise context is unclear. Persecuted by the Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians had to gather secretly. Christian symbols could have been used for mutual identification, but the weakness of this hypothesis is that the tattoos would also have made them permanently identifiable to the Romans as well. The Bible is ambiguous regarding tattoos. In the Old Testament, Leviticus (chapter 19, verse 28) specifically prohibits permanently marking the body:

‘Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh Heinrich Suso tattoos himself, Germanisches National Museum, Nurnberg

for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord!’

Miraculously tattooed girl, from an illuminated manuscript, 1503. Through the ages, these conflicting passages in the Old and New Testaments fostered an ambivalence within the Catholic Church towards tattooing and body decoration.

Fun Fact: Religious icons are another popular motif, their likeness often lifted from works of art in museums or sacred places. The visual we opt for is an artist’s interpretation dictated by the dominant style of the time it was executed, out choice motivated by a sense of faith, a desire to immortalize our religious conviction or admiration for the original art.


china japan and

Chapter 2

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Artistic trends

There have been a few periods in the history of the Far East when tat toos were accepted. Tattooing was mostly associated with the lower classes or the underworld. Though practiced in China for thousands of years, civilized and sophisticated Chinese showed nothing but disdain for it throughout this period. The practice became completely discredited after the Communist takeover in 1949.

It was also held in contempt in Japan, then

Body-suits by master tattooist Horikazu of Asakusa, Tokyo The Japanese tattoo style even became the international trendsetter. Prominent, even royal, Westerners were attracted to Japan to have a tattoo applied.

greatly influenced by China in this regard. This changed in the eighteenth century, however, when artists became interested in the art of tattooing, and quality soared. For a while tatworkers and small merchants.


toos were very fashionable, especially among

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Speaking the language: Translated below is some basic terminology from the Japanese world of tattoo. Horimono is a traditional Japanese tattoo Horishi is a traditional tattoo artist Sumi is the ink used to tattoo Irezumi means literally ‘to insert ink’ Hikae is a chest tattoo

Fun Fact:


Worldwide reputation

Japanese tattoo masters soon acquired an excellent reputation worldwide. Whereas most tattooists in other cultures of the time, including the West, used only simple or even primitive tools, the Japanese masters had developed sophisticated sets of instruments with varying numbers of needles. Native American tattooists, for example, would use bundles of five to seven needles at most. A Japanese master’s set of tattoo tools, on the other hand, could consist of more than 50 different instruments, including handgrips with shafts ending in between one and 30 needles.

Dragons are revered for their wisdom, courage, and objectivity.

Although dragons ore popular in Western myths, it is Japanese dragons that abound in tattoo imagery, mostly due to the great legacy of Japanese tattoo styles, which are so widely influential and admired. Japanese dragons have a snake like body, clawed feet with three toes, and no wings, as they are water deities. As such, they ore believed to control water in the form of rain or floods.


Fun Fact: There were many other tattoo designs based on Japanese fauna, flora, religion and mythology but these also betrayed their Chinese origins. The tiger is a Chinese zodiacal sign and represents male courage. Karashishi, the mystical lion symbolizing strength, is often portrayed in combination with botan, peonies.

An indcator of low social status in China

In ancient China, people lived according to strict Confucian moral codes. Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius preached that civilized people should honor and respect their parents and ancestors. Any mutilation of the body, a parental gift, conflicted with these basic tenets and brought shame upon the family and the community. Cultivated Chinese viewed tattooing, like eating raw meat and shaving body hair, as barbarous. These activities characterized wild, uncivilized tribes living beyond or on the borders of the Chinese empire. The first report of a tattooing culture appears in Chinese writings dating from around 200 BC. It describes the rue people, who decorated themselves with mythical figures to protect themselves from dragons and sea monsters when fishing.

Meeting of a Japanese tattoo club, c. 1950

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Peony tattoos on a Suikoden hero, woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada, 1862

Besides its popularity with the peoples at the periphery of the Chinese empire, tattooing was also common in the army and among slaves and criminals. These compulsory tattoos accentuated the social identity of the groups concerned, and were intended to prevent desertion and escape.

Japanese authorities have always discouraged or even prohibited tattooing because it conflicted with Japanese public morality.


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Tips types and

of tattooing

Modern tattooing device Modern tattooing machines use electromagnetic coils to move an armature bar up and down. The armature bar is a barred needle grouping that pushes ink into the skin.

O-ring Armature bar Rear spring

10 Tips: Tattoo artists generally use the term "machine", or even "iron", to refer to their equipment. The word "gun" is often used but is looked down upon by professional artists.

Contact screw Front binding post Top gromment Needle


Rubber band Clamp Tube

Rear binding post Frame




For first-timers

10 Be picky about the parlor 09 Follow aftercare instructions 08 Avoid alcohol 07 Check your spelling 06 Get a bid 05 Location, location 04 Design challenge 03 Size is not everything 02 Go with a friend 01 You will suffer for your art


Cultural tattooing Mentawai


The Mentawai islanders have created their own symbolic language. Their tattoos can only be appreciated in the context of a complete design on the body, not individually. They consist of simple geometrical lines transecting the body at various places.

Receiving a tattoo by hand-tapping is recognized as a very spiritual experience, partly because of the ritualistic nature of this method and partly because of the human interaction involved. With the tapping sound and the careful attention paid to the needs and demands of the body, hand-tapping is a veritable holistic experience, allowing for a trance-like, meditative state.

Mentawai chest design, The foundation is always a central line from the chin.

The comb, The stick that bears the needles. While the other stick is called a club which is used to tap the comb.

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Southeast Asia


Iban men were the most heavily tattooed of the larger tribes. Designs were copied from other tribes, mainly the Kayan, Kenyah and Bekatan. Even the typical Iban throat motif, which they call Katak ‘frogs’ or ‘the thread of the spinning wheel’ is an adaptation of a Bekatan motif. Throat tattoo, Young Iban warriors would receive throat tattoos many characterized by symmetrical patterns of straight and curved lines.

To this day, the tattoo masters of Burma, Laos and Thailand are Buddhist priests and monks. They have perfected their technique, and their spiritual mission to accumulate good karma prevents them from applying anything but tattoos with positive content. The other end is a round, razorsharp point, split into four long grooves that hold the pigment.

Long Lance, The tool preferred tool to be used by the monks.



asia Chapter 3


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Flourishing tattooing culture Long ago in a kingdom in Southeast Asia there lived a tribe of fishermen and seafarers. Each day they ventured out to sea, on the rivers and in the swampy marshes to catch their food. Many drowned or were killed by giant snakes, crocodiles or predatory fish. ‘The kind of the country interpreted these events as acts of vengeance by the water spirits on the land people for disturbing their rest. He ordered his subjects to tattoo their bodies with images of sea monsters, dragons, snakes and crocodiles, hoping that the spirits would then leave his peopIe in peace. The Thai tattooed fish scales to transform

Along the lower edge of these containers are

themselves into a specific legendary sea

representations of animals, mostly mythical,

creature. Laotian tattoos comprise a

in various attitudes, such as hunting or

magical net of lozenges and rectangles,

sitting. Above this border arc undulat-

making the bearer invulnerable. Laotian

ing lines, which also resemble those of

and Burmese tattoos often had borders

Lacrian tattoos. These lines represent

of medallions featuring animals and

mountains separating the earthly and

plants. The representations strongly

heavenly realms.

resemble the decorations found on Chinese Han Dynasty artifacts that probably served as incense burners.

Speaking the language: Translated below is some basic terminology from the Southeast Asian world of tattoo. Yantra is a sacred geometrical design Ongk Pra translates to Buddha’s body Yord Mongkut also means supreme crown

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Oshima hand designs, c. 1910

Miyako hand designs, c. 1910

Shuri hand designs, c. 1910

Tattooed weaving patterns Women on the Ryukyu (or Liukiu) Islands have been tattooed on the back of their hands since prehistory. This practice ended with the Japanese prohibition at the end of the nineteenth century. Even though many women ignored the ban and tattooed their daughters, the Custom disappeared over the following generation. The Ryukyu Islands consist of three island groups surrounding three larger islands: Oshima, Okinawa and Miyako. The archipelago stretches from south of Japan to northern Taiwan’s eastern coast.

This island kingdom entered into a tributary relationship with China in the fourteenth century, effectively losing its independence, bur maintaining its autonomy. In 1609, a Japanese prince took power, and in the subsequent period the kingdom paid taxes to both China and Japan. In 1879,Japan annexed the archipelago, imprisoned the king and forbade contact with China. For centuries, the Ryukyu Islands’ principal trade products have been the fine fabrics made by women from a variety of materials. Almost all the patterns were also used in the tattoos on their hands.

Fun Fact: Still today tattoos are used as a mark of status or a type of profession. The anchor is a favorite of individuals who are associated with marine or naval careers, and is closely identified with sailors all over the world. Many young sailors got an anchor tattoo to symbolize their first crossing of the Atlantic and safe return to port. Anchor tattoos can also be a reflection of someone who holds fast and keeps strong in a difficult situation.

On Okinawa, hand tattoos were marks of status and beauty. One legend tells of a lovely girl who could weave superbly. The Japanese wanted to take her to Japan to teach the craft to the women there. The local people were concerned that a wealthy Japanese man would claim her as his bride and the art would be lost. They conceived a cunning ruse, and tattooed her hands, whereby she became less attractive to the Japanese bur could always be recognized by her own people should the Japanese betray them.

The plan worked: no Japanese man wanted her, and she returned after a number of years to live a long and happy life as a weaver. After her death she was admitted to heaven and became a goddess. She is still worshipped in the city Naha.

Fun Fact: tattoo, it is clear why so many people choose it for a tattoo design. Two of the most popular meanings of the eagle tattoo are protection and freedom. Many different cultures believed that the eagle has the power to look straight into the sun without blinking. The ancient Romans believed that eagles carried the souls of the dead to Heaven.


Due to all the different meanings of the eagle

Magical Tattoos of animals and gods Because of their attributes, animals are the most popular tattoo subjects among young Thai men. A dragon represents power and wisdom; a lion, dignity and power; and a tiger, power and virility. Thai kick-boxers prefer a tattoo of a magical monkey from an ancient poem, due to its ability to leap great distances. Some designs are so popular that many Thai tattooists in the larger cities use rubber stamps to print the outlines.

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Sacred charactersand animals are tattooed on the arms, chest and back. A single dot protects the face, and also serves as a symbol of beauty. Some Thai men have a variety of symbols on their lower arms. These refer either to a former regiment or to their time as a student in a monastery. More aggressive magical and sexual tattoos are applied to the lower body, but with restraint. The Thai believe that these tattoos can affect their bearer’s behavior, and that too many cause a hot temper or restlessness. Tattoo masters consider the possibility that some men are too weak, or weak minded, for certain magical tattoos.

‘With holy water we have washed clean the ugly countenance and

barbaric custom’. ­– Jesuit father Francisco Ignacio Alcina


eradicated this superfluous and

The world of


Maarten Hesselt van Dinter

Not one country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to New Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo themselves. This practice was followed by the Jews of old, and by the ancient Britons. In Africa some of the natives tattoo themselves, but it is a much more common practice to raise protuberances by rubbing salt into incisions made in various parts of the body; and these are considered by the inhabitants of Kordofan and Darfur to be great personal attractions. In the Arab countries no beauty can be perfect until the cheeks ‘or temples have been gashed’


Book Redesign  
Book Redesign  

I chose a history of tattoo book to redesign giving it more text treatments and a brighter color palette.