13 Beautiful yet Foreboding Tattoos of La Catrina

La Catrina is one of the most compelling emblems of death in tattoo culture, and here are some killer examples.

Powerton4 months ago in Tattoo Ideas

The image of La Calavera Catrina, or "the elegant skull," has a long history in the arts. It originated sometime between 1910 and 1913, when famous Mexican illustrator, José Guadalupe Posada, produced the first image of this stylish skeleton. Here is an image of the original zinc etching that has now inspired other artists to create their own renditions in various mediums, including tattoos, or course.

Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
José Guadalupe Posada La Calavera Catrina, the etching that inspired others to take up the popular image. #DayoftheDead #etching #fineart #José GuadalupePosada #LaCatrina #Mexico
José Guadalupe Posada La Calavera Catrina, the etching that inspired others to take up the popular image. #DayoftheDead #etching #fineart #José GuadalupePosada #LaCatrina #Mexico

La Calavera Catrina has a very specific political message behind it. At the time of its creation, Mexico was being heavily influenced by European trends in fashion, a cultural phenomenon to which Posada was opposed. By illustrating this accessorized skull, he was communicating a deep message about how Mexican culture was being destroyed by Europe's influence. Because of the image's powerful political undertones, it has since then been taken up as one of the most provocative depictions of death in Mexican Culture, appearing prominently around the holiday of Dia de Muertos — Day of the Dead.

Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Pair of painted sculptures of from a Day of the Dead celebration. Sculptures by Michoacan artisan Emilio Barocio Yacobo #DayoftheDead #etching #fineart #LaCatrina #Mexico #sculpture
Pair of painted sculptures of from a Day of the Dead celebration. Sculptures by Michoacan artisan Emilio Barocio Yacobo #DayoftheDead #etching #fineart #LaCatrina #Mexico #sculpture

Though this image appears in mediums such as sculpture, sugar, etc., its most interesting manifestation arguably comes in the art of tattoos. The image has evolved right alongside the bodily art form as it has grown over the last century. Contemporary takes on La Catrina borrow from the neo-traditional and hyperrealist traditions in tattooing, typically depicting portraits of women in skeletal face paint as opposed to the original skull. To get a sense of how this iconic image has been imported and expounded on in tattoos, check out these astounding examples.

Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Jun Cha's (Instagram @juncha) take on La Catrina exemplifies how black and grey realism has allowed the iconic image to evolve over time. #blackandgrey #JunCha #LaCatrina #realism #roses #traditional
Jun Cha's (Instagram @juncha) take on La Catrina exemplifies how black and grey realism has allowed the iconic image to evolve over time. #blackandgrey #JunCha #LaCatrina #realism #roses #traditional
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Katherine "Tatu Baby" Flores combines sensuality with death in this sexy take on La Catrina. #blackandgrey  #LaCatrina #realism #traditional #TatuBaby
Katherine "Tatu Baby" Flores combines sensuality with death in this sexy take on La Catrina. #blackandgrey #LaCatrina #realism #traditional #TatuBaby
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
So this is what Marilyn Monroe is up to now. Beautiful La Catrina by Steve Morante (Instagram @steve_h_morante). #blackandgrey #LaCatrina #realism #roses #SteveMorante #stitches #traditional
So this is what Marilyn Monroe is up to now. Beautiful La Catrina by Steve Morante (Instagram @steve_h_morante). #blackandgrey #LaCatrina #realism #roses #SteveMorante #stitches #traditional
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Steve Morante's (Instagram @steve_h_morante) La Catrina in black and grey is simply exquisite.  #blackandgrey #LaCatrina #realism #SteveMorante #stitches #traditional
Steve Morante's (Instagram @steve_h_morante) La Catrina in black and grey is simply exquisite. #blackandgrey #LaCatrina #realism #SteveMorante #stitches #traditional

Illustrations of La Catrina look fantastic in black and grey realism. The tradition of portraiture in tattooing has enabled La Catrina to take on new dimensions of meaning, marrying the ideals of feminine beauty with the idea of death to bring nuance to the classic Mexican iconography.

Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Megan Massacre's (Instagram @megan_massacre) Catrinas in color are some of the best in the world. #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #neotraditional #realism #rose
Megan Massacre's (Instagram @megan_massacre) Catrinas in color are some of the best in the world. #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #neotraditional #realism #rose
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Beautiful use of just enough red to accentuate the beauty of death in this La Catrina by Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre). #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #realism #rose
Beautiful use of just enough red to accentuate the beauty of death in this La Catrina by Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre). #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #realism #rose
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
This example of La Catrina by Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre) perfectly illustrates the intersection of American traditional tattooing and this famous Mexican figure. #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre
This example of La Catrina by Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre) perfectly illustrates the intersection of American traditional tattooing and this famous Mexican figure. #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
It's great how this portrait of La Catrina almost looks like its creator—Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre). #color #flowers #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #neotraditional #ornate #realism
It's great how this portrait of La Catrina almost looks like its creator—Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre). #color #flowers #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #neotraditional #ornate #realism
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Phenomenal take on La Catrina by Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre). #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #neotraditional #realism #roses
Phenomenal take on La Catrina by Megan Massacre (Instagram @megan_massacre). #color #LaCatrina #MeganMassacre #neotraditional #realism #roses

As exemplified by the preceding tattoos by our very own tattoo ambassador, Megan Massacre, La Catrina's modern appearance takes on new life in color. Furthermore, the use of chroma invites artists to incorporate motifs from other styles of tattooing in their depictions of this lethal female figure. In these pieces, we see the cross-border intersectionality between Mexican folk art and traditional American tattoos.  

Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Nikko Hurtado (Instagram @nikkohurtado) might be the best La Catrina artist of our age given his insane skills at portraiture. #color #LaCatrina #neotraditional #NikkoHurtado #playingcards #realism #rose
Nikko Hurtado (Instagram @nikkohurtado) might be the best La Catrina artist of our age given his insane skills at portraiture. #color #LaCatrina #neotraditional #NikkoHurtado #playingcards #realism #rose
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
Nikko Hurtado's (Instagram @nikkohurtado) Catrinas make interesting use of playing card symbolism, emphasizing how much of life is a gamble. #color #LaCatrina #NikkoHurtado #playingcards #realism
Nikko Hurtado's (Instagram @nikkohurtado) Catrinas make interesting use of playing card symbolism, emphasizing how much of life is a gamble. #color #LaCatrina #NikkoHurtado #playingcards #realism
Ross HowertonFrom Tattoodo App
A truly original take on La Catrina by Phatt German (Instagram @phattgerman). #color #LaCatrina #neotraditional #phattgerman #realism #rose #spiderweb #stitches
A truly original take on La Catrina by Phatt German (Instagram @phattgerman). #color #LaCatrina #neotraditional #phattgerman #realism #rose #spiderweb #stitches

If you enjoyed gazing into the foreboding eyes of these stunning tattoos of La Catrina, you can check out more of them from our previous posts. Also, make sure to visit some of the artists' Instagrams listed in each of the photos' captions, and remember Day of the Dead is just around the corner, so consider getting your own gorgeous tattoo of our lady of death just in time for the holiday.