One of the most recognisable features of Marianne Faithfull’s look today is the tattoo on her left hand between her index finger and thumb.
“I chose a bluebird at the time, which was 1966 or something, because I thought it would mean freedom. What it really means is that I can’t rob a bank if I wanted to because it’s a distinguishing mark on my person.”
Marianne is off by one year as she got her tattoo in early 1967 – most probably while in Italy for the San Remo Song Festival. She even mentions in her autobiography “Faithfull” that she got it from a woman in Italy that she was so scared of that she’d only lend her her hand which is why the tattoo is situated there.
The woman mentioned is most likely Caroline Thomson, then-companion of the Australian artist Vali Myers (also mentioned in Marianne’s autobiography as “Valli” and vice versa in Vali’s memoirs) who at that time lived in a valley in Positano and learned the art of tattooing from Myers herself.
Who is responsible for the re-do that looks more like an actual bird than an assembly of lines is unknown. I was able to determined that it was done around 1976 and that the tattoo has remained the same ever since but have found no information about why she decided to change it or who the tattoo artist was.
Tattoos of bluebirds are often confused with swallows as they have similar colouring but they are in fact a completely different species of birds. Bluebirds are associated with health, spring, good luck and prosperity. Unlike the swallow the bluebird does not have any bad qualities and is generally a symbol of happiness. Lastly it’s a tradition for sailors to get this motive tattooed when they have completed a hundred thousand miles at sea. When this milage is doubled a second bluebird is added.
This write-up is based on my own extensive research and comparing hundreds of photos. If you find any factual errors or if you have any questions please let me know! Please don’t copy this text without my permission or claim it as your own. Quote from “Faithfull” and information about tattoo meaning from Vanishing Tattoo.