a r t e l i n o
Auction of Japanese prints ending in 2 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes and 0 seconds.

Japanese Tattoo Art

Item # 61686 - I am Not a Geisha - Sold for $2,500 - 10/5/2014
"I am not a Geisha". A girl with Yakuza tattoos on her arm.
Lithograph, woodblock, and hand coloring on Japanese mulberry paper. Chine Colle with Edo period book pages.
Please note: the edges are uneven as are most modern paper works by Daniel Kelly. For a further understanding of Daniel Kelly's art works, please read our extensive biography of the artist.

The artelino archive offers a database of more than 50,000 sold Japanese prints with detailed descriptions, large images and results. artelino clients with an active purchase history and authorized consignors of artelino have full access to our archive. Read the archive guide and test a trial version.
By Daniel Kelly born 1947

Japanese tattoo art has several names - irezumi or horimono in the Japanese language. Irezumi is the word for the traditional visible tattoo that covers large parts of the body like the back. Japanese tattoo art has a very long history.

Tattoos and Japanese Culture

Since the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism on the Japanese culture, tattoo art has a negative connotation for the majority of the Japanese people. In the eyes of an average Japanese a tattoo is considered a mark of a yakuza - a member of the Japanese mafia - or a macho symbol of members of the lower classes.

Early History of Japanese Tattoo Art

Archaeologists believe that the early settlers of Japan, the Ainu people, used facial tattoos. Chinese documents report about the Wa people - the Chinese name for their Japanese neighbors - and their habits of diving into water for fish and shells and decorating the whole body with tattoos. These reports are about 1700 years old.

For the higher developed Chinese culture, tattooing was a barbaric act. When Buddhism was brought from China to Japan and with it a strong influence of the Chinese culture, tattooing got negative connotations. Criminals were marked with tattoos to punish and identify them in society.

Tattoos in the Edo Period

During the Edo period - 1603-1868 - Japanese tattoo art became a part of ukiyo-e - the floating world culture. Prostitutes - yujos - of the pleasure quarters used tattoos to increase their attractiveness for customers. Body tattoos were used by laborers and firemen.

From 1720 on, the tattooing of criminals became an official punishment and replaced the amputation of the nose and the ears. The criminal received a ring tattoo around the arm for each offense or a character tattoo on his forehead. Tattooing criminals was continued until 1870, when it was abolished by the new Meiji government of the Japanese Emperor.

This visible punishment created a new class of outcasts that had no place in society and nowhere to go. Many of these outlaws were ronin - masterless samurai warriors. They had no alternatives than organizing in gangs. These men formed the roots of yakuza - the organized criminals in Japan in the twentieth century.

Japanese Tattoo Prints

In 1827 the ukiyo-e artist Kuniyoshi Utagawa published the first 6 designs of the 108 Heroes of the Suikoden. The Suikoden were something like ancient Robin Hoods - honorable bandits. The story is based on a classic Chinese novel - Shui-Hi-Chuan, that dates from the 13th and 14th century. The novel was first translated into Japanese in 1757 by Okajima Kanzanion. At the turn of the 18th to the 19th century the story was published with illustrations by Katsushika Hokusai. The novel of the 108 honorable bandits was very popular in Japan and caused a kind of Suikoden craze among Japanese townspeople.

Kuniyoshi's Suikoden ukiyo-e designs show the heroes in colorful, full body tattoos. Japanese tattoo prints and tattoo art in general then became stylish. Tattoos were considered iki - cool - but were restricted to the lower classes.

The richness and fantasy of the Japanese tattoo prints designs shown by Kuniyoshi are used by some tattoo artists up to this time.

The Meiji Restoration until Postwar Japan

In its strive to adopt Western civilizations, the Imperial Meiji government banned tattooing as something considered a barbaric relict of the past. The funny thing was that the Japanese irezumi artists now got new clients - the sailors from the foreign ships anchoring in Japanese harbors. Thus Japanese tattoo art was spread to the West.

During the first half of the twentieth century, horimono remained a forbidden art form until 1948, when the prohibition was officially lifted. Some say that this step had become necessary to legalize the demand by soldiers of the American occupation forces for horimono and irezumi.

Tattoo Art in Modern Japan

Although some younger people may consider tattooing as trendy, the majority of the Japanese population still considers it as something connected to the underworld of mafia gangsters or a bad low class habit at the best. Younger people who consider tattoos as iki - a minority among Japanese youth - tend to use partial tattoos in Western style on their upper arms, where it is not directly visible.

From the artelino Archive

Enjoy a few random examples of related art works sold in past auctions of artelino. Our archive offers a database of more than 50,000 sold Japanese prints and about 2,000 contemporary Chinese art prints with detailed descriptions, large images and results in USD. artelino clients with an active purchase history and authorized consignors have full access. Read the ARCHIVE GUIDE and test a trial version.

Item # 74343 - One Hundred Kabuki Acting by Ichikawa Danjuro - Engei Hyakuban - Tattooed 9 Dragon Shishin - Sold for $460 - 3/18/2018
From the series "Ichikawa Danjuro Engei Hyakuban" (One Hundred Kabuki Acting by Ichikawa Danjuro). The kabuki super star, Danjuro, is in the role of Kyumonryu (Nine Dragon) Shishin in the play "Suikoden no Danmari" played at Shintomi-za Theater. He was so nicknamed because of the flamboyant nine dragon tattoos on his body.
By Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900
Item # 73292 - MonMon - Tattooed Man and Tattooed Poop - Sold for $300 - 2/4/2018
From the series, "MonMon". No. 2. Comical expression of a tattooed man. He has tattoos of a large fiery Fudo and dragons on his back. He is pooping, which also has tattoos !
"MonMon", altogether 11 designs, was Takeda's first collection of prints, in which he used tattooed men for " trying to extract art from cartoons." - statement from the artist's website. The prestigious Bungeishuju Manga Award was bestowed to this print series. "MonMon" is an Osaka word for "representational or figurative tattooing." This word is also associated with the tattoos of yakuza.
Hideo Takeda is one of the best recognized contemporary Japanese artists for the comical, somewhat bizare images. He considers himself more a cartoonist than a proper artist. He commented about his wide variety of styles, 'It is my belief that having no specific style is my own style".
By Hideo Takeda born 1948
Item # 73291 - MonMon - Tattooed Couple - Sold for $300 - 12/17/2017
From the series, "MonMon". No. 4. Comical expression of a tattooed couple. She has a tattoo of a courtesan on her back.
"MonMon", altogether 11 designs, was Takeda's first collection of prints, in which he used tattooed men for " trying to extract art from cartoons." - statement from the artist's website. The prestigious Bungeishuju Manga Award was bestowed to this print series. "MonMon" is an Osaka word for "representational or figurative tattooing." This word is also associated with the tattoos of yakuza.
Hideo Takeda is one of the best recognized contemporary Japanese artists for the comical, somewhat bizare images. He considers himself more a cartoonist than a proper artist. He commented about his wide variety of styles, 'It is my belief that having no specific style is my own style".
By Hideo Takeda born 1948
Item # 73290 - MonMon - Tattooed Man with Panda - Sold for $300 - 12/31/2017
From the series, "MonMon". No. 11. Comical expression of a tattooed man. A man with flower tattoos on his limbs. He is wearing a pair of sunglass and holding a cushy, stuffed Panda bear doll.
"MonMon", altogether 11 designs, was Takeda's first collection of prints, in which he used tattooed men for " trying to extract art from cartoons." - statement from the artist's website. The prestigious Bungeishuju Manga Award was bestowed to this print series. "MonMon" is an Osaka word for "representational or figurative tattooing." This word is also associated with the tattoos of yakuza.
Hideo Takeda is one of the best recognized contemporary Japanese artists for the comical, somewhat bizare images. He considers himself more a cartoonist than a proper artist. He commented about his wide variety of styles, 'It is my belief that having no specific style is my own style".
By Hideo Takeda born 1948
Item # 73289 - MonMon - Tattooed Man in Pink Underware - Sold for $300 - 1/14/2018
From the series, "MonMon". No. 9. Comical expression of a tattooed man. A man wearing a pink underware is showing a spectacular dragon tattoo on his back.
"MonMon", altogether 11 designs, was Takeda's first collection of prints, in which he used tattooed men for " trying to extract art from cartoons." - statement from the artist's website. The prestigious Bungeishuju Manga Award was bestowed to this print series. "MonMon" is an Osaka word for "representational or figurative tattooing." This word is also associated with the tattoos of yakuza.
Hideo Takeda is one of the best recognized contemporary Japanese artists for the comical, somewhat bizare images. He considers himself more a cartoonist than a proper artist. He commented about his wide variety of styles, 'It is my belief that having no specific style is my own style".
By Hideo Takeda born 1948
Item # 73029 - Tattooed Man - kabuki - Sold for $110 - 1/14/2018
Kabuki actor is in the role of a tattooed man, probably Danshichi Kurobei in "Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami". The red line on the forehead is not a color spot, but a part of the design (a wound from a sword stroke).
By Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900
Item # 73027 - The Most Popular Actors in Edo, Their Portraits and Their Voices - Tattooed kabuki actor - Sold for $160 - 11/19/2017
"Edo no Hana: Iro no Tate Hiki, ichifuri nitari; kowairo hitokuchi nasubi" (The Most Popular Actors in Edo, Their Portraits and Their Voices ).
Nakamura Shikan IV as the chivalrous man Otokodate Yami no Yoichizo holding a sword in his mouth. His tattoos are stormy clouds and lightnings in an interesting geometrical form.
By Kunisada Utagawa 1786-1865
Item # 73025 - Toyokuni Manga Zue - Tattooed Oniazami Seikichi - Sold for $180 - 11/12/2017
"Toyokuni Manga Zue". A scene of the popular kabuki play "Kosode Soga Azamino Ironui". Kabuki actor Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Oniazami (Devil's Thistle) Seikichi. He has his sword drawn and is watching a goose disappear with a bag. His body is tattoed with red thistles.
By Kunisada Utagawa 1786-1865

Dieter WanczuraAuthor: Dieter Wanczura

CONDITIONS of USEIMPRINTCONTACTPRIVACYCREATE ACCOUNTaccount_circle