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Mary Read, better known as Mark Read, is a 17th century pirate.
As a huge history buff, the story of this pirate intrigued me so much as she was (rather accidentally) way ahead of her time. I'll give you a quick rundown of her history: Mary Read was born in England during the late 1600's, The Golden Age of Piracy. Her mother raised her as a boy to receive monetary support from her late husband's mother. Still dressed as a boy, Read found work as a foot-boy and later joined the British Marines.

Mary has lived a relative short life, but nonetheless filled with adventure. In this piece, I tried adding as many references to those, as well general pirate habits.

An important part of this project was collecting references. I compiled a reference board with the materials, colors and jewelry I wanted. In the top left, my original design. As well as reference to skin, and sculpting techniques used by other artists.
Reference Clothing
I took some creative liberty with the overal costuming. In the pictures and drawings I could find of her, she was depicted wearing an open shirt. Although risky in her case, I felt it fit her pretty well.

It seems there is no real evidence that pirates would have had tattoos. They were criminals who frequently visited places such as Africa, where body modifaction took place at the time. This would make it plausible. There is, however, evidence for tattoos later in history, during the 18th century. I took most of my inspiration from that time. The tattoos were specifically styled and rather light. See the above reference image.
I gave her a couple nonsensical ones, like a crab or a lighthouse. Some do carry some significance. Like the one on her chest. It is the logo of the inn she bought with her husband at the time, in Breda, The Netherlands. Called 'De Drie Hoefijzers' (The Three Horseshoes). As well as a boat tattoo on her hand, called 'William', which she stole together with John 'Calico Jack' Rackham and Anne Bonny. Whom she had met when she sailed to the West Indies after her husband's death.
The last significant tattoo is a small portrait on her arm, which resembles Anne Bonny. Mainly hinting at Bonny's slight crush on Read before finding out Read was not a 'Mark'. Her other hand has a small tulip, which is a small nod to her short time in The Netherlands. Me being Dutch, I felt it was only necessary :)

Typically, pirates would wear their valuables on their person, to avoid it being stolen. I gave her a random number of 6 rings. An Amethyst which is believed to prevent drunkness, ideal for a pirate. An Aquamarine to keep sailors safe. And an Onyx stone, to ward of evil and promoting good health.
There's a ring with her initials (M.J.R) and last but not least, one that says 'Quam bene vivas refert non quam diu' which is Latin for: 'It is how well you live that matters, not how long.' Since Mary passed away at the age of 35 of a violent fever during her imprisonment, I felt it was a fitting quote. She has settled down with a Flemish man, fought in the wars and sailed across the Carribean seas. Seems like a well lived life to me.

June 2021

Software Used



Substance Painter

Marvelous Designer

Marmoset Toolbag