Friday, May 12, 2006

(32) chronology: 1519

The codexes from Mexico were new to Europeans, but less mysterious than Egyptian hieroglyphics because there were people who could explain them, even though when Hernan Cortés first arrived on the mainland in 1519 translation was a two-step process. Malinche would translate Nahuatl into Maya, and Gerónimo de Aguilar would translate Maya to Spanish.
El Jardín de las Delicias/The Garden of Delights was painted about ten years later. It includes a chronology that covers Cortés's time in what is now Mexico from 1519 to 1528, and instead of copies of hieroglyphics it contains Hieronymus Bosch-like images that help to make it easy to remember how to read the hieroglyphics.
The first one, ce acatl (1-Reed, 1519) is semi-copied from a Mixtec version, and resembles a capital A. It is made to be easy for a humanist to remember since it illustrates a famous passage from Vitruvius about fresco paintings with people perched on reeds and stalks:
We now have fresco paintings of monstrosities, rather than truthful representations of definite things. For instance, reeds are put in the place of columns, fluted appendages with curly leaves and volutes, instead of pediments, candelabra supporting representations of shrines, and on top of their pediments numerous tender stalks and volutes growing up from the roots and having human figures senselessly seated upon them; sometimes stalks having only half-length figures, some with human heads, others with the heads of animals.

Charles V became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, and a mermaid and merman represent the initials CV. An armada of mermen are carrying a fish that looks like a C, but it is not clear whether it stands for Carlos/Carolus or for Cortés.


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