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ORIGINS OF ICONIC TATTOO IMAGERY: CLASSIC AMERICAN TATTOOING: PART 1: ROSES

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Oct 4, 2017 Comments are off

It is not uncommon to see images of the rose tattooed on a great number of people in many different varieties.  The variances found in rose imagery have a deeply rooted history throughout the ages in the time of man.

As a tattoo design, roses have become an increasingly iconic image since the birth of the tattoo machine.  They have been tattooed on both men and women from all walks of life for nearly a century.  The first images of tattooed roses are on early circus posters dated from about 1900.  The first photos I have seen of roses tattooed on people were done by Charles Wagner in the early 1920’s in New York.  Although I think I spy a small rose in the upper right and left hand corner by the shoulders of Stephan Wagner’s back from 1914, I can not be absolutely sure since the photo is blurry due to it’s age.  I am however, positive that roses were tattooed many years before that, I just can’t prove it.  Not yet anyway.  In doing much research for this blog, I read a lot of articles and blogs that stated that roses symbolize femininity, which I do not believe is true in the slightest.  When you look closely at vintage tattoo photos, there are a great many more roses tattooed on men than there are on women.  Perhaps this is because a far greater amount of men were tattooed until the late 1950’s/60’s.  The women who were adorned with tattoos before this era were generally circus/sideshow performers or high society women who thought tattoos were the latest fashionable trend to stand out from the crowds.

The most popular color in iconic rose imagery is obviously red.  The red rose has been known to symbolize many different things to the person adorned with it.  Roses themselves symbolize love, honor, longing, hope, grief, loss, marriage, rebellion, sacrifice, beauty, death, suffering, and religious affiliation.  This is not to say that it cannot mean other things as well.  People have attained tattoos over the past century to commemorate both struggles and joy in their lives.

In my opinion, when researching rose symbolisms as they pertain to color, composition and placement, you are going to find a whole lot of hocus-pocus on articles, blogs and websites that want to sell you on an idea, product, or certain style of artwork.

Although the Victorian Era in England ushered in a popularly conservative new form of language using flowers for communication instead of words, the meanings of the colors of roses were simply made up by the publishers of floral dictionaries.  Floriography Dictionaries often stated extreme variances and differences for the same colors of roses among publishers.  Countless other flowers and their exact arrangements, pairings and placements were symbolic of all types of emotions and sentiments in this time period.  It is only natural that this folklore from the Victorians made it’s way to the Western world, that was bustling with the buzz of tattoo machines in the nights.  I believe that this is what has lead to the onslaught of bogus ‘let me tell you your fortune zodiac type influence’ over the color of roses in tattoos.  Along with these ‘let me tell you what a rose color means’ websites and blogs, you will also find numerous references on rose symbolism regarding Greek mythology, numerology, tarot cards, penal tattoos and rose shapes/compositions.  If you look keenly for research to back up all of these claims, you will find the truth that is now widely accepted by society is based on lies and bullshit.

In closing, if you’re  lucky enough to come across this blog before getting tattooed, I have a suggestion for you.  Before picking a color for your next rose tattoo, the first thing you should consider above all else is the color of your own skin tone in reference to what tattoo color you desire.  Not all colors look bright on people with darker skin tones and some lighter colors can hardly be achieved at all on those tones.  My advice comes from many years of seeing tattoo trends come and go on the fly.  What this means is, get what you want for what it means to you and no one else.  I implore you to please spend the extra time to research your potential tattoo artists and consider their suggestions for what colors of roses will look best on you.  Thanks for reading.  This is Part 1 in a series of Iconic Tattoo Imagery to come….

HERE ARE SOME ROSES DONE AT ELEMENT TATTOO STUDIO IN SAN ANTONIO, TX

 

THESE ARE TATTOOS AND FLASH DESIGNS BY CHELSEA KOTZUR

 

THESE ARE TATTOOS AND FLASH DESIGNS BY JUSTIN MARTINEZ

THESE ARE TATTOOS DONE BY WILLIAM COOKE

THIS IS A FLASH DESIGN BY CHRIS MCNEILL

THIS IS A ROSE TATTOO BY LUPE DEHOYOS

THANKS FOR LOOKING.  STAY TUNED!