Tag Archives: Aztec

ARTES event: Picturing a New World – Cortés – Moctezuma, 1519–2019: A Special Study Afternoon and Conversation

A guest post by Anna Espinola Lynn and Clare Hills-Nova

On 23 October, 2019, ARTES, together with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hosted a transdisciplinary session at the University’s Weston Library, focusing on Mesoamerican manuscripts. The event was designed to mark the 500th anniversary of the historic meeting between the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) and the Aztec ruler Moctezuma the Younger (1466–1520), just outside Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), on 8 November 1519. Attendees included students, academics and representatives of other cultural institutions.

Attendance at this exclusive event was by invitation only. Would you like to take part in similar visits in the future? Join ARTES today!

MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72 (3). Image courtesy the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

The afternoon began in the Weston Library’s Visiting Scholars’ Centre. On view were the Selden Roll (MS. Arch. Selden. A. 72 (3)) alongside two modern books produced by Alfonso García Tellez, using the traditional, amate paper-based techniques evidenced by rare Pre-Hispanic codices and rolls.

The session began with Sir John Elliott’s essay on the Cortez-Moctezuma encounter before moving on to presentations by Giuseppe Marcocci (University of Oxford), Emily Floyd (UCL), and the Bodleian Libraries’ Head of Conservation, Virginia Lladó-Buisán. 

Giuseppe followed Sir John’s paper with a consideration of the roles vision and visual culture took on in the encounter between the Spanish visitors and the Mexica. Turning to contemporary accounts of the encounter that emphasize vision, as well as representations of the imagined or real Other, Giuseppe pointed to visual asymmetries active in colonial contexts as they participated in relations of power. 

Emily, meanwhile, provided a reading of the pre-colonial Selden Roll as it expressed the formation of a new cycle of rule in central Mexico. She discussed the multiplicity of ways the Roll can be read, and invited further conversation as to possible representations of time, succession, generation and regeneration. Regarding the name of the Selden Roll, Emily noted that this was associated  with its colonial history of collecting more than with the Roll’s actual content, commenting that ‘The Roll of New Fire’ had recently been adopted as a more appropriate title for it. 

Virginia followed up with insights into the processes and materials used in creating the Roll, drawing upon the results of recent research. Participants in this session had the unique pleasure of getting up close to the Selden Roll and asking those experts present questions about anything from shifts in hue or line quality, to contexts of production in pre-colonial and colonial environments, and on the multivalent symbolisms in the Roll. 

Following a compelling period of conversation around and about the objects, the afternoon concluded with a visit to the Weston Library’s Talking Maps exhibition, where the Codex Mendoza (Bodleian Library MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1) was on display. Here, they were able to extend the conversation regarding the authorship, readership and linguistic referents of the pre-colonial Roll of New Fire versus the colonial era’s Mendoza Codex. 

Images courtesy the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Online Resources from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and MoMA

Since 2016, MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum have worked on digitising exhibition catalogues and other material related to their displays and collections.

MoMA’s ‘Exhibition History‘ page offers access to photographs, interpretation, checklists and other material for 4,918 exhibitions from the museum’s founding in 1929 to the present. ARTES members may be particularly interested to discover a 1931 exhibition dedicated to Diego Rivera, the show American Sources of Modern Art (Aztec, Mayan, Incan) of 1933, the ground-breaking Cubism and Abstract Art of 1936, the 1939 show Picasso: Forty years of his art and exhibitions dedicated to the Brazilian artist Candido Portinari and to Joan Miró in 1940. The archive offers a way to explore the museum’s history during its closure for refurbishment and redisplay (re-opens October 21).

On archive.org, art lovers and researchers can read and download more than 200 catalogues published by the Guggenheim Museum. Highlights include the exhibition Tauromaquia (Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, Venice, 1985), Berriaren tradizioa: Guggenheim bildumako maisulanak, 1945–1990 (Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 1995), and The Aztec Empire (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2004).