chapter
22 Pages

held-or, at idea-but they are sensuously embodied desires originally

In the regions of Oceania, particularly the Polynesian Islands, we find a far richer development of that form of pictorial art which aims at the adornment of the body, or, as we ought rather to say with reference to the beginnings of this artistic practice, at the exercise on the part of the body of a magical influence upon external things. Polynesia is the chief centre of artistic tattooing. Throughout these regions this practice has universally taken the form of prick tattooing. By means of separate, close-lying prick points filled with colour, various symmetrical designs are formed. This tattooing is the only art whose highest perfection is reached at the beginning of culture. As soon as clothing appears, the decoration of the body itself gives way to that of dress. On particular occasions, as, for example, in connection with certain cult practices of the American Indians, custom may continue to demand entire nakedness. Under these circumstances, there is a sort of retrogressive development in which the painting necessitated by the festivals takes the place of tattooing. This occurs even among the Australians. Moreover, even after clothing has appeared, it long remains a favourite custom to tattoo certain exposed parts of the skin, particularly the face and the anns and hands. Even to-day, indeed, the arms are sometimes tattooed. The fact that tattooing is now practised almost exclusively by criminals and prostitutes, and, occasionally, by sailors, finds its explanation in a circumstance which was also of influence at the time when tattooing was in its first flower, namely, in the interruption of occupational activity by long periods of leisure.