The reputation of the tattoo was not the best for a long time, with them being directly associated with marginality: tattooed were criminals, prostitutes, especially from the 1920s until the end of World War II. At that time the most common art was what we know as the Old School.

Nowadays, with the popularization of tattoo, the prejudices related to this art are decreasing and people of various ages and social classes adopt a design in the skin. An interesting way to demystify the bad name that surrounds tattooing is to see admiring people carrying body art.

Here we will look at the example of four great people, great in their fields, who have made their work part of human history and who have in common the fact that they have at least one tattoo.

The first ingenious and unexpected tattoo is Thomas Edison, creative genius and father of many of the technological inventions that make our life easier today, such as the electric lamp. Among Edison's unfamiliar creations is the electric pen, designed to facilitate document copying, which, later perfected by Samuel O'Reilly, gave rise to the first tattoo machine. Did you know that?

It is unclear if this is why the founder of General Electrics had 5 dots tattooed on his arm, whose meaning and authorship are unknown. The five point tattoo is known in many parts of the world and has the most diverse meanings, such as symbol of fertility or time spent in prison, for example. In Edison's case, there are only questions about the design on his arm, including that O'Rilley himself might have done.

Thomas Edison - Figures Stories and Tattoos
Thomas Edison


Tattoo Machine by Thomas Edison
Tattoo Machine by Thomas Edison

The second tattooed is the author of one of the best selling books of the twentieth century, the questioner "1984". George orwell, writer of other world-renowned works, had a troubled life, ranging from education in aristocratic schools to begging in England; from the defense of socialism to the struggle against the authoritarianism of the communist regime. In this bustling path full of strong opinions, not always to everyone's liking, Orwell, as he is known, acquired a mania of persecution, which would be the justification for the five blue circles tattooed on the rings of the fingers of one of his hands. According to Myanmar tradition, where he served as a policeman, the symbols would ward off would-be enemies.


George Orwell - Tattooed Historical Figures
George orwell

Still in the art business, this time in the seventh art, the next tattooed is considered one of the great actors in the history of cinema. Robert de Niro received 2 Oscars for “The Godfather 2” and “Raging Bull” and 4 nominations for “Taxi Driver”, “The Sniper”, “Awakening Time” and “Cape of Fear”. In this last film, the actor lived Max Cady, a character with several tattoos seeking revenge, which meant that De Niro needed to paint himself with vegetable paints that only came out months after the shooting was over. Unlike this character, the actor has only one body art: a black panther on his right shoulder, which, due to his extremely reserved life, has few records.


Robert de Niro in Cape of Fear

Robert de Niro in Cape of Fear
Robert de Niro in Cape of Fear

Another genius tattooed personality is musician, writer, poet and painter Patti Smith, considered the mother of punk rock, one of the great figures of world music. The artist has a ray-shaped tattoo by artist, dancer and poet Vali Myers, who Patti said was one of her teenage heroines. The tattoo was made while the two lived at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, which once housed distinguished residents such as Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski. The experience was described in his 2010 biography Just kids:

“I was sitting in the lobby drawing ray versions in my notebook when a singular woman appeared. She had wild red hair, a living fox on her shoulder, and her face was covered with delicate tattoos. I realized that behind the tattoos was the face of Vali, the girl I had long ago had a portrait hanging on the wall.

Vali's technique was primitive, consisting of a large sewing needle she sucked in her mouth, a candle and a pot of indigo paint. I had decided to be stoic, and I sat quietly as she taped the lightning bolt on my knee.


Patti Smith - Tattooed Historical Figures
Patti Smith

Skilled, dedicated, controversial, revolutionary geniuses, all with one thing in common beyond talent: a body design, which in these cases is not meant to identify a criminal or someone you might not have to trust. They are as tattoos should be: forms of expression, in these cases of people with spectacular lives and magnificent and creative minds.



Tattoos, motorcycles, graffiti, music are some of my passions and my main topics on BlendUp.

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