October 26, 2012

The Funeral Rites of Auitzotl

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. In this illustration, from the second section, a mummy is shown seated on a basketwork throne with the glyph of Auitzotl, a crown, feathered ornament made from quetzal plumes, a jade collar, and three men in the background. The mummy has blood coming from it. The mummy of Auitzotl, with his glyph and other symbols of his royalty, is shown in the second stage of the funeral rites of the Aztec, the cremation. The three men in the background represent the slaves who were sacrificed when an emperor died. Auitzotl, or Ahuitzotl (reigned 1486–1502), the eighth Aztec emperor, son of Moctezuma I (or Montezuma) and brother of Axayácatl and Tizoc, enlarged the Aztec Empire to its greatest size. He died of a wasting disease. His funerary rites are described in another important manuscript, the Codex Durán. Auitzotl is represented by the auitzotl or ahuitzote, a kind of spiny rat or otter that lived in the lake on which Tenochtitlan was built. To ancient Mexicans, it was a fearful mythological creature, which existed to trap men for the rain god, Tlaloc.

Quetzalcoatl, a Major Deity of the Cholula People

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, depicts Quetzalcoatl, with conical hat, a beak, and feathered shield and cape, holding a curved knife. Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), one of the principal gods of the Aztecs, was a god of creation, linked to fertility and resurrection, and rain in his manifestation as Ehecatl or the wind god. There was a large temple honoring him in Cholula. He was often identified with Topiltzin, a legendary and possibly historical priest-king of Tula in the Toltec era and was described as light skinned and bearded. When Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, Emperor Moctezuma II (reigned 1502–20) was convinced that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl. The design of the god’s cape, hat, and loincloth represent the wings of a butterfly, symbol of fallen soldiers.

The Fight Between the Sacrifice and He Who Sacrifices

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, depicts a scene of sacrifice. The victim, with white feathers in his hair and a shield with the signs of the five directions of space, fights a warrior dresssed in jaguar skin holding a war club and shield, and wearing a feathered headdress. This sacrificial rite was celebrated on the festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli in honor of Xipe Tótec, "our flayed lord," the god of agriculture, death, rebirth, and the seasons. At his festival in the spring, men were sacrificed by tying them to the temalacatl (an altar stone). Once defeated, the victim was flayed and eaten. A description of this festival is given in another important manuscript, the Codex Durán.

The Custom of Sacrificing the Heart and Offering It to the Gods

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, depicts a human sacrifice. An anonymous priest holding a spear presides over the sacrifice of a man whose heart is removed by an assistant. In the background, another assistant on the steps of a temple or pyramid holds an incense burner. The offering of the victim's heart to the gods satisfied the Aztec belief that the sun would rise again nourished by the hearts of men. The xochiyaoyotl (Flower Wars) were conducted to capture prisoners for the sacrificial offerings needed for the gods.

Destruction by Fire of Pennsylvania Hall. On the Night of the 17th May, 1838

This dramatic print shows the destruction of Pennsylvania Hall, a large building that was constructed in 1837–38 at Sixth and Haines Streets in Philadelphia as a meeting place for local abolitionist (antislavery) groups. Dedication ceremonies began on May 14, 1838, and continued over several days in a climate of growing hostility from anti-abolitionist forces in the city. On the night of May 17, 1838, an anti-abolitionist mob stormed the hall and set it on fire. Fire companies refused to fight the blaze, and the building was completely destroyed. A large crowd looks on, as firefighters spray water on an adjoining building. The printer and publisher John T. Bowen issued the print within a few days of the fire to commemorate the event. The illustration is by John Caspar Wild (circa 1804–46), a Swiss-born artist and lithographer, who arrived in Philadelphia from Paris in 1832. He produced paintings and prints of Philadelphia and other American cities, including Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and Davenport, Iowa. His works are important historical records of these cities before the era of large-scale industrialization and rapid urban growth.

Girard College

This lithograph shows a view of Founder's Hall at Girard College in Philadelphia, which was constructed in 1833–47 from designs by Philadelphia architect Thomas Ustick Walter. The hall occupied a site between what became Girard Avenue and Ridge Avenue at Corinthian Avenue. Girard College was established through a bequest from Stephen Girard, a Philadelphia financier and philanthropist, for the creation of a school for poor white male orphans. The illustration is by John Caspar Wild (circa 1804–46), a Swiss-born artist and lithographer, who arrived in Philadelphia from Paris in 1832. He produced paintings and prints of Philadelphia and other American cities, including Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and Davenport, Iowa. His works are important historical records of these cities before the era of large-scale industrialization and rapid urban growth.