Drawing of a Loreto marker

To proof the ancient origin of Loreto tattooes, there is a vintage print, unique of its kind, dating back to the beginning of the ‘900. I’m moved to see, for the first time in my life, the drawing of a Loreto marker in the act of tattoing. The anonymity of the author confirms the rarity of this type of illustration, compared to the images of Loreto tattoos that are easier to find. The uniqueness of this print perhaps comes from the air of mystery that enveloped the figure of the marker, in a place where religiosity prevailed over everything else. The vintage scene depicts the city of Loreto in the background, seen from Porta Marina, just behind the Basilica and its walls. In the foreground there are numerous figures that surround the marker craftsman, bent over the table while tattooing a woman’s arm.        

Detail of the marker Lauretano

The tattoo artist is dressed as an ancient Loreto peasant wearing festive clothes.

The person being tattood is a woman, perhaps a young bride, also wearing a typical dress which was popular until 1850. She is sustained by her groom wearing clothes of the same period. Three women are watching the operation: one, closer to the groom, wears a peasant costume (popular around 1800); the other wears a typical dress used in Loreto during holidays and celebrations from 1850 onwards. This last woman wears a characteristic bonnet on her head, which was sometimes worn in church or at home when men entered (in the old days, women were not meant to show their head to men, as a sign of respect and modesty).

The other characters of the group all wear Southern Italy clothes. In particular they are: a woman from Sora (Campania), a wife of Atina (Campania), a woman from Villa Valle Longa (Abruzzo), a woman from Pescasseroli (Abruzzo), a woman from Campoli (Campania), a woman from Alfedena (Abruzzo), a wife of Cerchio (Abruzzo), a woman from San Giovanni Rotondo (Puglia) and a woman from Fontechiari (Terra di Lavoro). All these characters are looking around or perhaps waiting for their turn to be tattooed. Looking at what they are wearing, we can understand, perhaps, the reason why at that time tattoos were carried out mainly on the arms (tight and bulky clothes were not practical for tattoos), as well as the fact that tattoos on the arms were reminiscent of the stigmas of St. Francis.

Detail of vintage clothes. In the background the Basilica of Loreto and the arch of Porta Marina.

This beautiful and ancient image, the size of a postcard, contributes to enrich the proof of the sacred and profane tattoo of Loreto. Art, history and culture give a special meaning to this ancient tradition.