Living in pre-television times must have been super fucking rough. Imagine yourself as a caveman. Sure, most of your time is spend trying to survive long enough so your species can evolve into modern man, but what did you do with the down time? You probably sat around a fire in a cave and made shadow puppets with your hands. Today, we’re taking a look at some shadow puppet tattoos, because long before the dawn of Netflix, all the cavemen had was shadow puppets and chill.
Actually, there’s no historical evidence to give weight to anything we’ve just said. It’s all speculative. But for a while, shadow puppetry was a really big deal. The actual term for this form of entertainment is shadowgraphy (or sometimes ombromanie). This refers to the art of telling a story or putting on a show using hand shadows. Consider it to be cinema in silhouette. For centuries, talented shadowgraphists entertained the masses of Europe, which is something that is actually backed up with historical record.
The master of hand shadows seems to indisputably have been 19th century French entertainer Felicien Trewey. He would draw large crowds as he used his hands to make silhouettes of famous personalities of the day. And I thought what I did with my fingers in the privacy of my bedroom was magic…
The art suffered a sharp decline upon the advent of electricity due to the fact that light bulbs don’t produce good shadows. Electricity also brought about cinema and television, which made shadowgraphy look fucking stupid in comparison.
Though it is mostly a dead art (though some well-rounded illusionists still employ it in their shows), shadowography lives on in the form of shadow puppet tattoos. Just take a look at some of the shining examples we’ve gathered and try to imagine when this was the best entertainment available to the masses.
Don’t these shadow puppet tattoos make you yearn for the entertainment parlors of 19th century Europe? Nah. But it is a neat look at a specific niche of storytelling history.