Tuesday, August 29, 2006

(51) la noche triste, 1520

The main differences between the image of Cortés's nighttime retreat from Tenochtitlán in 1520 (la noche triste) on The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias and on a later biombo are that the biombo includes more identifiable scenes and that it has a key indicating that la noche triste is marked with the letter H (near the bottom of the third panel from the right).

The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias version is also obviously a hell scene (setting aside for the moment the question of whether there were similar battle scenes in hell before the imitation-Bosch paintings) but that may be primarily because the knife has to do with Martin Luther.

Monday, August 28, 2006

(50) a Leonardo parody

The gigantic ears and knife are only one of several parodies of Leonardo da Vinci's numerous designs for real and preposterous war machines (see the notes for another Leonardo parody). An interesting difference is that none of the ones in The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias has wheels. They may be a comment on the Indians not having the equivalent of European war machines, especially since the only easy-to-recognize American artifact in the triptych is a feathered disc which might have reminded people of European armor but whose main military purpose would have been to look impressive.

The right-side-up and upside-down people transporting one of the "war machines" may be demonstrating what wheels might have looked like from an Indian perspective, or according to an Indian joker. The image of people going around and around on a wheel of fortune is European.

Wheels are shown as dangerous things in the Haywain triptychs.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

(49) a real murder mystery

This blog has been on a long digression between 1519 (ce acatl, marked by the pink castle; see 32 and 33 in the May archive and 1 in April) and 1520 (ome tecpatl, marked by the ears and knife) in order to establish a context for the peculiar way in which New World dates were "translated" into images that look like inventions of Hieronymus Bosch. Apart from the glyph and the enigmatic monogram on the knife, in The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias the year 1520 is marked mainly by darkness, violence, and confusion.
Controversy over what happened in that year and how to interpret the events still exists. It was announced today that some skeletal remains have been examined and that they show invaders were killed and eaten. Archaeologists have put a positive spin on the story, saying the evidence shows there was "resistance to the conquest… It shows it wasn't all submission. There was a fight." The story will probably also be taken to indicate that people thought the problem of the European invasion could be solved by eating conquistadores and their friends.

Boiled bones show Aztecs butchered, ate invaders

Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:20 PM BST138

By Catherine Bremer

CALPULALPAN, Mexico (Reuters) - Skeletons found at an unearthed site in Mexico show Aztecs captured, ritually sacrificed and partially ate several hundred people traveling with invading Spanish forces in 1520.

Skulls and bones from the Tecuaque archaeological site near Mexico City show about 550 victims had their hearts ripped out by Aztec priests in ritual offerings, and were dismembered or had their bones boiled or scraped clean, experts say.

The findings support accounts of Aztecs capturing and killing a caravan of Spanish conquistadors and local men, women and children traveling with them in revenge for the murder of Cacamatzin, king of the Aztec empire's No. 2 city of Texcoco.

Experts say the discovery proves some Aztecs did resist the conquistadors, led by explorer Hernan Cortes, before the Spaniards attacked the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.

History books say many indigenous Mexicans welcomed the white-skinned horsemen in the belief they were returning gods but turned against the Spaniards once they tried to take over the Aztec seat of power in a conflict that ended in 1521.

"This is the first place that has so much evidence there was resistance to the conquest," said archaeologist Enrique Martinez, director of the dig at Calpulalpan in Tlaxcala state, near Texcoco.

"It shows it wasn't all submission. There was a fight."

The caravan was apparently captured because it was made up mostly of the mulatto, mestizo, Maya Indian and Caribbean men and women given to the Spanish as carriers and cooks when they landed in Mexico in 1519, and so was moving slowly. Continued...

An article based on another interview with the same archaeologist was published in La Jornada on August 2.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

(48) The Concrete Blonde

"Bosch looked up from the paper into the grimy but familiar face of the homeless man who had staked out the front of the courthouse as his turf. Bosch had seen him out here every day during the week of jury selection, making his change-and-cigarette rounds. The man wore a threadbare tweed jacket over two sweaters and corduroy pants. He carried a plastic bag of belongings and a Big Gulp cup to shake in front of people when he asked for change. He also always carried with him a yellow legal pad with scribbling all over it." Michael Connelly, The Concrete Blonde, p. 9. (Thank you to "Caro" on the general discussion message board at www.michaelconnelly.com, who remembered the book.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

(47) the Rhetorica ad Herennium

At first glance, and also from reading surveys of the medieval commentary on it, the Rhetorica ad Herennium memory system seems excessively difficult. To start with, one seems to have to be able to visualize a long colonnade, with every fifth or even every tenth space marked in some distinctive way. In the Palace of Charles V in Granada, the doors and niches behind the columns might help a little as reference points for counting off every fifth intercolumniation (space between columns), although not much. It does not seem as though having such a space nearby would help remember things.

But there may have been an easier way. In one of the Harry Bosch detective novels, there is a memorable scene where Harry Bosch and an unidentified person share a cigarette on the steps of a courthouse in Los Angeles.
(see the notes page for medieval commentaries and Harry Bosch novels)