The Dancing Style of Aztec Noble Dancers


The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, shows a dance of nobles. Two drummers at the center wear the feathered epaulette seen in the portraits of Emperor Moctezuma I and Emperor Moctezuma II. To the right of the drummers are the high priest, wearing a tilma (cloak) with the image of the sun, and soldiers representing the jaguar and eagle military castes. Decorative elements include feathered ornaments. The dance shown was possibly for the festival of Toxcatl, which was held during the month dedicated to Tezcatlipoca, the god of the night sky and memory. The drummers play the teponaxtli (wooden drum), and the ueuetl (drum with a membrane). The nobles wear either the tilma or the simpler maxtlatl (loincloth).

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information



Title in Original Language

El modo de baylar de los Mexicanos. Y última del primer tratado

Type of Item

Physical Description

Watercolor on paper ; 21 x 15.2 centimeters


  • Illustration from fold-out leaf 119

Last updated: July 30, 2014