Decoding the Human Canvas is our series where we deconstruct the meaning behind profound pieces of large-scale body art. Be sure to check out some of our previous installments about Leda and the Swan, maritime symbolism, and Christ’s crucifixion.
Because of their sheer size, backs are the ideal canvas to tell powerful stories like those found in the Bible. Peter Lagergren’s depiction of Satan being ousted from heaven is a perfect example. In this large-scale neo-traditional composition, he depicts the Archangel Michael driving a sword into Lucifer’s throat as he hurls him into the underworld. By incorporating key symbolic elements from the original narrative, Lagergren faithfully captures the religious significance of this violent event.
“Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought against his angel, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven,” reads the Book of Revelation in the Bible. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” This battle between faithful and rebellious angels has been the subject of countless works of visual and literary art throughout history, including paintings by artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel and John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. This battle between divine beings was destined to become a tattoo.
Lagergren’s back-piece honors all of the major components of the Christian narrative. In his piece, you can see not only Michael and Satan grappling with each other but also the body of a dragon twisting around in the background. By incorporating this mythological beast, Lagergren references the serpentine metaphor used for Lucifer in the scripture. Also, if you look closely at the bottom of the composition, you can make out several of the deformed fallen angels looking up in disbelief at their leader’s demise. The back-piece channels the themes of transgression and punishment that are so prevalent throughout the Book of Revelation, and in doing so accurately illustrates the wrath of an angry God.
To behold more of Lagergren’s immaculate body art, make your way to his Instagram. If you’re looking to get your own large-scale piece that tells a seminal story from human history, commission him to create it for you. Few artists make neo-traditional tattoos as profound as his.