Decorated Skin A World Survey of Body Art

Karl Groning


Since earliest times, humans have decorated their skin in endless ways and for fascinating reasons. Laden with cultural messages and imbued with aesthetic experience, body decoration is the ultimate form of self-expression in which the artists create for themselves a “second skin” as a testimony to the society in which they live, as a mirror of their own individuality, and as a reflection of the supernatural. This unrivaled collection of striking photographs traces more than ten thousand years of cultural history—from the body painting of stone-age peoples to the self-inflicted piercing of punks and the enduring image of the carnival clown in modern industrial society—illustrating an art form that is finding new relevance in the world of today. To set the plates in context, a distinguished team of art historians, ethnologists, and archaeologists has provided enlightening commentaries that document the development of an extraordinary spectrum of body painting, tattooing, and scarring techniques.

Originally published in hardcover under the title Body Decoration: A World Survey of Body Art.


Karl Groning


Karl Gröning, the originator and editor of Decorated Skin, owns a vast archive of pictures, assembled from all over the world. He is an acclaimed book designer and was Art Director of Axel Springer Verlag in Germany for more than twenty-three years.