Art History Working Papers: Chasing Nezahualcoyotl’s Portrait
Each semester, this intriguing series of lectures allows students, faculty from other departments, and the wider campus community a look into our professors’ own research. These presentations show first-hand what an active art historian does, and provides the unique opportunity for students to examine their instructors’ process and methodologies.
First up this semester, Latin American Art specialist Dr. Patrick Hajovsky presented his topic: Chasing Nezahualcoyotl’s Portraitl.
The image above, from Codex Ixtlilxochitl (ca. 1579) is one of the only surviving portraits of the important Aztec king, Nezahualcoyotl (1403-73), who ruled the city of Texcoco, one of the principal cities of the Aztec Triple Alliance. This portrait, while important to indigenous claims upon their noble heritage in the Spanish colonial system, represents a somewhat different conception of the king than had it been produced for an Aztec audience, both in the medium in which he is illustrated (a manuscript illustration) as well as the manner (as an historical agent). Though true Aztec portraits of the king are known to have existed, they only survive by description, since they were destroyed during early anti-idolatry campaigns.
My current research attempts to reconstruct the limits and expectations of Aztec portraiture by researching indigenous notions of the body as described in Nahuatl texts, to show that the lost sculpture of Nezahualcoyotl relied more heavily on hieroglyphic inscriptions and ritual performance than on creating a “lifelike” portrait.
The talk occurred Tuesday October 4 from 11:30 to 12:00 in art history classroom FAB 235.