Tattoo Ole – Nyhavn 17
When you jump in the chair at Tattoo-Ole in Nyhavn, you are joining a rugged row of rouge sailors, easy ladies, nervous privates and even a king, the Danish King Frederick XI in the 1960ties, who have been under the needle in this room since the 1884.
Tattoo-Ole is, as far as we know, the world’s oldest operating with the Tattoo-studio in the cellar under Nyhavn 17. The building on Nyhavn 17 is protected by the Copenhagen Museum because of its cultural value. Through the years, Nyhavn 17 has gathered all kinds of people. In the old days, it was filled with drunken sailors, women of pleasure (prostitutes), criminals & outlaws; it was the rough end of town…
Tattoos since 1884
We know that, already in 1884, they were tattooing in the basement. At the time, it was a small tobacco-store with a small table in the corner, where the tattoos were done. As the story goes, tattoos were even made way before 1884 in the small rooms of the basement and in the bar at Nyhavn 17. The Barkeepers were happy to have them, because, at the time, the people who managed to get their hands on proper tattooing-equipment were few, so curious people went to the bars and bought more drinks to see the tattoo “circus”. From 1919 and on, the cellar in the basement was used exclusively as a Tattoo-studio by Hans Hansen. Since then, the shop has goneg from hand to hand while only ever being closed because of things like renovations, illness, weekends or vacation.
The first tattoo-artist we know of in Nr. 17 is Hans Hansen. After that, Peter Severinsen had the shop in the 1920s, while Tattoo Holger was there during the 1930s – and since then, there have been many more that we do not know the story of.
(Crown Prince Fredrik shows and tells about one of the tattoos his grandfather Fredrik the IX got made at Tattoo Ole Nyhavn 17)
Photographer: Brian McClair Fogh
(Sailor through time)
Tattoo-Ole takes over
After that came Tattoo-Jack, who is still a legend to this day. His art was advanced for his time with his colourful pieces. He lived here with his family of 2 adults and 3 kids in the small shop of less than 30 square meters. It was really tight and crowded in the old days. In 1947, Jack is going to jail, and he asks Tattoo-Ole to look after the shop until he returns. However, Ole refused, and instead, he offered Jack to take over the place. After some discussion, Jack agreed – that’s why the place is still called Tattoo-Ole, as he remains a legend around the world.
Ole goes on to run the shop for 41 years, and when he dies in 1988, his right hand Danny Hansen takes over with ’Bimbo’, who was working at Nyhavn 37 – a store that Tattoo-Jack opened when he was released from jail.
About the Tattoo shop in Nyhavn today
They were partners for many years, until Danny left to open a shop in Germany and Bimbo chose to run the shop alone. Bimbo got a new partner in spring 2008 called Majbritt Petersen – ’Little-Ole’ – and when Bimbo died in 2010, Majbritt took over the place, as the very first female artist to own the old shop. She still runs it with glamour and passion, and now she has Thomsen at her side in the shop, as well as Sara, who is a student. Since then, Majbritt has been fighting to keep the old shop open and is now facing the final battle in court with the landlord of the restaurant upstairs inNyhavn 17, who wants to expand the kitchen and use the old tattoo-ole rooms for that – even though it is a treasure in Danish tattoo history and culture.
The Danish King Frederick XI was tattooed here a couple of times and that’s why you will find the following text on the door: ’the king’s tattoo artist – king of tattooing ’.
At Hanky Panky’s tattoo museum in Amsterdam, there are a lot of things and history from the shop. Also in Denmark, at the sailor museum in ’Kronborg’ in Helsingør, there is a lot about the shop with the old Nyhavn and the life that was here.
There is so much history connected to this shop and the old Nyhavn and we will do all we can to continue the history, but in the end, it is up to the court and in the hands of the Judge. The court days is set to 5 & 6 of June this year and if any of you reading this have anything about the shop please mail it to Majbritt ‘Little-Ole’ Petersen. It could be articles about the shop and information about the shop in tourist guides, magazines from around the world etc. Maybe it can help, so please do send whatever you have got.
There is a lot of stories to tell about the shop, and the story will surely continue to grow longer – but this is all you get for now.
Thank you for reading this! We hope you found it interesting.
– Majbritt (Little-Ole), Thomsen (the handsome one) & Alex 🙂
(Pictures of the development and history)
We perform all types of tattoos and cover ups.
In our webshop and in our psychical store on Nyhavn 17, you can see our Tattoo-Ole merchandise and accessories, and grab what you need to complete your outfit or tattoo-care. Click here to get to our webshop.
In the shop, you'll find paintings done by Little Ole, which you can buy and take home with you.