Painting of the Governor, Mayors, and Rulers of Mexico


This 16th-century pictographic manuscript, written in Mexico, contains the declarations of the defendants and witnesses in an investigation into charges of misrule and abuse against Viceroy Don Luis de Velasco and other Spanish authorities in New Spain, as Mexico was then called. The investigation was carried out in 1563–66 by Don Jeronimo de Valderrama, who was sent to Mexico for this purpose by order of Philip II of Spain. The people and their statements are represented through pictographs, followed by an explanation in Nahuatl and Castilian Spanish for the notaries, with the statements of the indigenous people translated by interpreters of Nahuatl. The drawings are an invaluable source of information on the everyday life of colonial Mexico. They depict civil and religious buildings; the building of homes; public works, including channel systems, bridges, and roads; male and female clothing of both Spanish and Indians; occupations and economic activity, including farming, fruit gathering, cleaning, and decoration; utensils and instruments to make them; and the currency used (gold or cocoa) to pay taxes. A military expedition to Florida is represented by a man on horseback, bearing the banner decorated with the eagle over a prickly pear, followed by four natives, dressed in Castilian clothing, accompanying the Spanish soldiers. The document is also known as the Osuna Codex, after its owner, the Duke of Osuna e Infantado, whose library became part of the National Library of Spain in 1883, but it is not a codex as such. Rather it is an administrative document, which at some point was separated, because of its attractive drawings, from the bulky file relating to Valderrama’s trip to Mexico. The 39-page document keeps its original foliation (463-501), proof that it was once part of a larger file.

Last updated: October 25, 2012