The Murals of Cacaxtla: The Power of Painting in Ancient Central Mexico

Hardcover | February 15, 2015

byClaudia Lozoff BrittenhamForeword byMaría Teresa Uriarte

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Between AD 650 and 950, artists at the small Central Mexican city-state of Cacaxtla covered the walls of their most important sacred and public spaces with dazzling murals of gods, historical figures, and supernatural creatures. Testimonies of a richly interconnected ancient world, the Cacaxtla paintings present an unexpectedly deep knowledge of the art and religion of the Maya, Zapotec, and other distant Mesoamerican peoples. Painted during a period of war and shifting alliances after the fall of Teotihuacan, the murals' distinctive fusion of cosmopolitan styles and subjects claimed a powerful identity for the beleaguered city-state.

Presenting the first cohesive, art historical study of the entire painting corpus, The Murals of Cacaxtla demonstrates that these magnificent works of art constitute a sustained and local painting tradition, treasured by generations of patrons and painters. Exhaustive chapters on each of the mural programs make it possible to see how the Cacaxtla painting tradition developed over time, responding to political and artistic challenges. Lavishly illustrated, The Murals of Cacaxtla illuminates the agency of ancient artists and the dynamics of artistic synthesis in a Mesoamerican context, offering a valuable counterpoint to studies of colonial and modern art operating at the intersection of cultural traditions.

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Between AD 650 and 950, artists at the small Central Mexican city-state of Cacaxtla covered the walls of their most important sacred and public spaces with dazzling murals of gods, historical figures, and supernatural creatures. Testimonies of a richly interconnected ancient world, the Cacaxtla paintings present an unexpectedly deep kn...

Claudia Lozoff Brittenham is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. She is the coauthor, with Mary Miller, of The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak and the coauthor, with Stephen Houston and colleagues, of Veiled Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya Color.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:316 pages, 11.25 × 8.85 × 1.12 inPublished:February 15, 2015Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292760892

ISBN - 13:9780292760899

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and TablesForewordAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Cacaxtla in ContextThe Acropolis and Its PaintingsGreater Cacaxtla-XochitécatlDiego Mu´noz Camargo's Description of CacaxtlaProblems of EvidenceBetween Powerful NeighborsCacaxtla among the Epiclassic City-StatesArt and IdentityChaos Again2. The MuralsMaterials and TechniquesArtistsChronology3. The Feathered Serpent and the Captive Stair: Polemics of StyleThe Serpent CorridorFeathered SerpentsAquatic BordersFeathered Serpents and Aquatic BordersThe Afterlife of the Feathered SerpentThe Captive StairText and ImageA Foreign Style?Reconsidering Captive ArtPolemics of Style4. The Temple of Venus: Astral BodiesStyleVenus/Star SymbolismBilingualism and Polyvalence5. The Battle Mural: Violence in the PlazaTime and InevitabilityDoublingPatterns of NamingThe Dangers of DifferenceThe Battle Mural in Mesoamerican ContextBurial6. The Red Temple: Maize in the UnderworldA Merchant God and His WaresPainting LuxuryOf Maize, Cacao, and MenSupernatural Landscape7. Structure A: The Mountain of SustenanceThe Portico and Jamb Murals: A Portrait of the AltepetlGuardians and AntecedentsNames and DatesDuality and DifrasismoSustenance MountainContinuity and ChangePainted Earth: The Inner MuralLater Interventions: Blood and ClayBuried PaintingsConclusionAppendix: Radiocarbon Dates for the Cacaxtla MuralsA Review of Radiocarbon Dating and ReportingEarly Classic Radiocarbon Dates at CacaxtlaRadiocarbon Dates Associated with Mural PaintingChronology of the Cacaxtla PaintingsNotesBibliography

Editorial Reviews

Between AD 650 and 950, artists at the small Central Mexican city-state of Cacaxtla covered the walls of their most important sacred and public spaces with dazzling murals of gods, historical figures, and supernatural creatures. Testimonies of a richly interconnected ancient world, the Cacaxtla paintings present an unexpectedly deep knowledge of the art and religion of the Maya, Zapotec, and other distant Mesoamerican peoples. Painted during a period of war and shifting alliances after the fall of Teotihuacan, the murals' distinctive fusion of cosmopolitan styles and subjects claimed a powerful identity for the beleaguered city-state.Presenting the first cohesive, art historical study of the entire painting corpus, The Murals of Cacaxtla demonstrates that these magnificent works of art constitute a sustained and local painting tradition, treasured by generations of patrons and painters. Exhaustive chapters on each of the mural programs make it possible to see how the Cacaxtla painting tradition developed over time, responding to political and artistic challenges. Lavishly illustrated, The Murals of Cacaxtla illuminates the agency of ancient artists and the dynamics of artistic synthesis in a Mesoamerican context, offering a valuable counterpoint to studies of colonial and modern art operating at the intersection of cultural traditions..This book will make a major and lasting contribution to the study of Mesoamerican art. . . . I am confident it will be consulted and referred to widely and will be regarded as a methodological benchmark. Although it focuses on a particular set of questions and accompanying answers that reveal the complex links between the [Cacaxtla] paintings, their patrons, artists, and meanings and a wide range of other Mesoamerican sites, imagery, styles, and cultural themes, the breadth of knowledge and intellectual inquisitiveness and sophistication it displays support rating it favorably with, and perhaps higher than, some other key monographs in the field.. - Jeff Karl Kowalski, Professor of Art History and Distinguished Research Professor, Northern Illinois University