Tattoos in Japanese Prints
Mid to late 19th-century Japanese prints, especially those of actors or based on famous stories, are something to behold. They are full of power, energy, and often feel threatening to the viewer with the power they possess. While prints of this nature have been exhibited in museum collections around the world, this particular exhibit, and catalog, specifically look at tattoos in these Japanese prints and how they helped give rise to the use of tattoos in Japanese culture. Even though the tattoos were outlawed, people still got them to show they were part of something. They were highly artistic and often would show a scene from myth or a story. The authors make an argument that this is where we get modern tattoo design today. These are fascinating prints, and they do a wonderful job reproducing them in the book, often times with close ups of individual prints. The first part is an essay examining the history of Japanese tattoos, and prints, in 19th-century Japan. The rest is a catalog of the museum’s collection of what they have, and the author talks about each one briefly with a picture.
MFA Publications, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston