Throughout the centuries when the bubonic plague ravaged Europe, doctors and self-proclaimed physicians donned an eerie uniform intended to shield them from the deadly miasma.
Adorned in long dark robes and tall hats or heavy hoods, plague doctors wore beak-like masks stuffed with pleasant smelling herbs, spices, perfumes, and dried flowers that would “filter” and ward off the stench of disease.
As surgical and medicinal knowledge advanced, such a costume was eventually deemed impractical and downright grotesque.
The image of the plague doctor abounds in Gothic folklore, a symbol of cruder times and fatal lack of knowledge, as well as a decadent figure of the most nightmarish scenarios. For that reason it was only a matter of time before the tattoo world eagerly committed the plague doctor to ink-and-flesh portraiture, resulting in some magnificently macabre designs.
Like something straight out of a Tim Burton movie, the plague doctor can be depicted in various styles, so long as the trademark “beak” is left intact. Dramatically cast in deep shadows and dark ink, or shaded in richly medieval colors, this figure is sure to send a delicious chill down the spine of those who catch a glimpse of what many once presumed to be death himself.