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  • Writer's pictureNate Scharping

Tattoos, Identity, and The Disturbing Fate of ‘Monsieur Bonheur’

Clues to who the 19th century Frenchman was can be read on his unusually preserved remains.

Smith et al., Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 55 (2021)/CC BY 4.0

When Gemma Angel met Monsieur Bonheur, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Angel, pursuing her doctorate at the University College London at the time, was studying a collection of hundreds of preserved pieces of tattooed skin from European soldiers, and she was no stranger to the unconventional and the macabre. But her first glimpse of Bonheur, in a private collection in London in 2010, still managed to surprise.

“Bonheur was in his library, covered up, just leaning against the wall,” Angel says. “And it was kind of a shock, but also fascinating.”

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