Saturday, December 13, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #8

Codex Huejotzingo (Painting 5), Nahua Culture, 1531, Hand-painted document on maguey (a pre-European paper)(Art during the Colonial Era)

Sometimes art techniques are used for record keeping and as a documentary tool like this Codex page. Remember that a codex is an early form of a book. This particular page is a record of the tribute provided to the court by the town of Huejotzingo. Different objects and people are arranged carefully on the page in a straightforward manner. The focal point of the composition is of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child.

This visual list of tribute shows that payment included pots of amber, gold plaques, a banner and a standard with the image of the Virgin Mary and Child, loincloths, and metal-tipped darts. The people with rings around their necks and sticks protruding are slaves. Someone who was skilled at reading the visual symbols could quickly analyze the offering.

The maguey is made by stripping the inner leaves of the agave cactus. After it is dried it has a light silvery color. The colors are made from earth pigments with details from gold leaf (which was very expensive). Whoever created this page was highly skilled in handling these materials. Check out this link from Sharon Cohen, a world history teacher in Maryland and her approach to teaching this piece in her classroom.

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