Decoding the Human Canvas: Claudia De Sabe's Portrayal of Christ

Decoding the Human Canvas: Claudia De Sabe's Portrayal of Christ

In the first installment of our ongoing series looking into the symbolism of large-scale tattoos, we turn our attention to God's only son.

Claudia De Sabe works in traditional and Japanese styles, and the only thing more captivating than the beauty of her large-scale work is its symbolism. To illustrate just how meaningful her tattoos can be, here’s a brief analysis of a depiction of Jesus Christ that’s still in progress.

Christ on the crucifix is one of the most poignant and prominent motifs in all of western art, representing the forgiveness of all of mankind’s sins. Depictions of the Passion have been around since as early as the 5th century, and as De Sabe’s work shows, people are now wearing these depictions the on their skin.

Aside from the Christian messiah himself, the chalice seen in De Sabe’s back-piece is one of its richest symbolic images. It references the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, which was later used to collect his blood during the Crucifixion, which inspired the Eucharist, in which wine is taken as sacrament in place of Christ’s blood. It also harkens back to the Arthurian legends about the Holy Grail that grew out of this religious ritual of atonement.

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The inclusion of crossed tongs and a ball-peen hammer invites a number of interpretations, the foremost of which evoke the working-class and artisanship. These are the trusty tools of blacksmiths, and they signify the forging of one’s own way. All of this points to the original Christian principle of good works and living a virtuous life in the service of others.

The skull and crossbones might be the most familiar icon featured in De Sabe’s back-piece. Viewers will likely associate it with death, since it is a symbol for pirates and poison. However, when paired with a portrait of Jesus, who famously rose from the dead, such a cliché emblem takes on a much deeper meaning.

De Sabe’s mirrored hands holding dice (i.e. luck, fate, or destiny) are one of the most fascinating portions of the back-piece, because there are so many different ways to read them. They gesture to time-honored mystical designs in the arts, including hamsas, which often feature eyes at their centers, as well as the Eye of Providence since the triangular portion of each hand frames the all-seeing eyes.

Collectively, the figurative elements of De Sabe’s back-piece come together to express the complexity of the Christian worldview and conception of the afterlife. Its message is at once straightforward and profound: if people live piously, their sins will be forgiven through the grace of God — the sacrifice of his only son — and the reward will be life everlasting after death.

To see more of De Sabe’s visual art and keep up with the progress she makes on this back-piece, make a pilgrimage to her Instagram or check out this article. She works at Seven Doors Tattoo in London, England, travels tattooing all over the world, and can be reached at for bookings. Also, if you want to buy some of her prints, here’s the link.

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