PYRAMIDS, PALACES AND GREAT BIG WALLS -
Art in Latin America
Chavin period (7OO—500 BC) ceramic, 13” high, North Coast PeruReproduction
the absence of iron and many other utility materials which are taken
for granted today, pottery in the ancient Andean civilizations was
adapted to a very wide range of practical functions. One of its
principal uses was for the preparation, serving, and storage of food
and drink. It was also used for ceremonial purposes and was buried
with the dead as mortuary gifts. Nest, though not all, the pottery
which has survived in museums and private collections was recovered
from burials. It has been suggested, though this is not
certain, that potters were mainly women. The wheel was unknown in
Pre-Colombian America and none of the pottery shows the mechanical
precision of wheel-made wares.
of the little pots or bottles show genre scenes of an incredible
variety. Every conceivable activity from procreation to embalming has
been shown. The ceramic form depicts the full range of the life of the
people; torture, disease, religious practice, weaving, farming,
architecture, weapons, tools, hunting, fishing, fighting, portraiture
and even scientific observations; zoology, botany, conchology, herpetology,
- the list is endless.
art of ancient Peru is dominated by representations of jungle
creatures of which the most important is the big cat, or jaguar.
Jaguars, anthropomorphic jaguars, and parts of Jaguars are found
in a variety of stylized forms. One such stylization appears
here where a jaguar head in profile rises vertically on the
front of the bottle.
was one of the principal gods of some Latin American people,
and power. His roar represented thunder in a rainstorm.
AZTEC MASK, PLASTER
Aztecs worshipped many gods, who each looked after a different part of
life. They believed that the gods watched them constantly and would
become angry if the people did not carry out the right sacrifices and
festivals at the right time.
They tried to
win the favour of the gods by sacrificing many prisoners.
One of the most famous of the Aztec rulers was
Montezuma. He believes in a god called Quetzalcoatl (the feathered god).
Montezuma thought that one day this god would return to the land from
the east. He believed that Cortez the explorer was this god when he came
to conquer the lands. Cortez was able to conquer the Aztecs by the
strength of his army and also by alliance and diplomatic organization of
other tribes that were alienated from Montezuma. His ability to
communicate with the chief was entirely due to a woman interpreter who
was given to him as a gift. After controversial battles, Cortez
conquered the Aztecs and sent more Spanish soldiers to take other parts
of central America, Mexico and South America.
of the winged god of the Chimu, (c .900-1200) hammered tumbaga and
gemstones blade of cast arid hammered tumbaga. Museum poster
Chimu gold knife or tumi was meant for religious ceremonial use rather
than sacrifices. The elaborately wrought hilt, with turquoise, depicts
the head of a winged god. He wears the ear-plugs popular among the
Inca nobility, and humming birds hang from his head—dress.
The Incas venerated their emperors as living gods.
prehistoric Peru, gold was found in rivers and subterranean veins and
on the earth’s surface. Thus, the precious metal was incorporated
into native art at a time when mining arid smelting were unknown.
During the centuries before the Spanish conquest, Indian artisans
acquired a wealth of gold objects — the enormous number of which
aroused the greed of foreign adventurers. Although the conquistadors
melted into bullion as much Peruvian treasure
as they could extort for their coffers, the vast
majority of Peruvian gold objects remained buried in tombs and caches
never discovered by the plunderers.
cast tumbaga (alloy of copper, gold and other metals) 1200 AD. GOLD OF
EL DORADO POSTER. (Quimbaya
is a region of Colombia and a time period)
tumbaga in this piece has a high percentage of copper, some of which
has corroded to produce the green discoloration on the surface. Modern
analysis confirms the sixteenth century Spanish statements that
tumbaga (also called guanin gold, or caricoli) was extremely variable
in composition often with a gold content of less than 20 %. Even the
copper rich tumbagas could be treated so as to give a superficial
appearance of pure gold, a fact which at first deceived many
Spaniards. The facial features on this pectoral figure seem more
realistic, less formalistic, than those of typical QUIMBAYA style.
El Dorado, a
legendary country abounding in gold, was rumored in the 16th and 17th
centuries to exist somewhere in South America. The name of the
country, which in Spanish means “gilded man,” was derived from its
alleged ruler who was so rich that he covered his body with gold dust
each day and then washed it off in a lake each evening. Spanish
conquistadors, hearing tales of El Dorado’s fabulous wealth, set out
to find its treasures.
legend of El Dorado probably originated among the Chibcha Indians, who
inhabited the highlands around present-day Bogota, Colombia. The
Chibcha anointed each new chief with resinous gums and covered his
body with gold dust. The chief then plunged from a boat into the
sacred Lake Guatavita and washed off the gold as an offering to the
Earth gods, while the people on shore threw their own offerings of
gold and gems into the water. This ritual had died out before the
arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century and evidently had
been transformed into a legend.
Spanish discovery of the rich cities of the Aztecs and the Incas
helped develop the story of El Dorado into the legend of a whole
country filled with treasure. Beginning around 1530, a long series of
expeditions was organized by Europeans to search for El Dorado and the
fabled cities of Manoa and Omagua. One of the most famous of these was
led (1569-72) by Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, who had conquered the
Chibcha and founded the city of Bogota. The search eventually spread
from the Bogota highlands into the valleys of the Amazon and Orinoco
rivers. Sir Walter Raleigh led two of the last expeditions in 1595 and
1617. Although the searchers never found El Dorado, their expeditions
resulted in the exploration of much of northern South America. El
Dorado is the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, and the legend is
alluded to in both John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Voltaire’s
for Inter-American Relations Staff, El Dorado: The Gold of Ancient
Colombia (1980); Naipaul, V. S.,
Loss of El Dorado: A History (1969); Raleigh, Walter, Discovery of the
Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana (1848; repr. 1970);
Hagen, Victor Wolfgang, The Golden Man: A Quest for El Dorado (1974);
Joseph, The Treasure of El Dorado (1977).
Indians, Surinam, So. America. Feathers,
plant fibers, trade beads, native leather.
headdresses are made on a plaited basketwork base, around which feathers
and down are attached. The Wayana especially prize the long brilliant
red and blue tail feathers of the macaw for the crown of a headdress,
although these are not the only ones to be used. Each headdress is
carefully composed of different sorts of feathers selected from
specified parts of a wide variety of birds that provide the artist with
a range of colors covering the entire spectrum. indeed the Indians have
been known to find even this range inadequate and to tint the feathers
they use in order to get the exact shade they require. In looking at the
arrangement of form and color in the headdress, we can feel the world of
the Guiana jungles and see that world through the eyes of the man who
tried to summarize it in this work of art.
DATURA PERSON WAS DEFEATED”,
commercial yarn and beeswax on board, Huichol, Mexican highlands, Fine
Arts Museum of San Francisco. Poster.
live in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in Mexico. They speak a
language similar to the language spoken by the ancient Aztecs, They
practice a religion that is very, very old. The part of Mexico where the
Huichols live is very hard to reach. There are few roads and the
Huichols travel from place to place by walking.
yarn paintings are not like other Huichol art works such as
embroideries, weavings, beautiful jewelry and decorated gourd bowls, The
yarn paintings are mostly made by those Huichols who have come down from
the mountains to living in the cities and are sold to the tourists who
visit Mexico. The yarn paintings tell stories about the gods and
important events in the history and lives of the Huichols,
The designs are made by pressing different colors of yarn into beeswax
that has been warmed by the Sun and spread over a piece of wood. This
yarn painting depicts the defeat of a powerful and dangerous sorcerer by
Our Elder Mother Deer in the First Times.
,1980, Lawrence Nelson,
day brings whole families to Guatemala City from the countryside.
Wearing colorful costumes, people come ‘from as far as 20 miles to
sell things they have raised. They bring vegetables, chickens eggs etc.
as well as beautiful cloth and yarns. Sometimes they have to ride in ox
carts to reach the city. Even children must do their share of the work.
In this photo we see the busy vendors and the customers milling around
the market place.
Frida Kahlo (Self-Portrait),
1925-1954, Frida Kahlo, Mexican (1907-54) oil on canvas, Reproduction
She married the Mexican muralist Diego
Rivera in 1929 and their relationship was reportedly a tempestuous
one. This intense relationship was also represented in her paintings.
Kahlo was born Magdelena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderòn, in Coyoacàn,
Mexico City. Her mother was Mexican and her father, born in Germany, had
settled there. She began painting almost by chance, as her parents hoped
she would study to become a doctor. However, her fate was sealed when
she was involved in a serious traffic accident in 1925. As a result,
Frida spent long stretches of time, throughout her life, in hospital and
she underwent numerous operations. it was during one of her periods of
convalescence that she began to paint and discovered that she had a
immobility limited her access to a wide variety of subject matter and as
a result many of her paintings are self-portraits. They are often
autobiographical, for instance, the works My Birth and Henry
Ford Hospital (both 1932).
was greatly influenced by native Mexican folk art, and by Andre Breton
and Surrealism. She met Breton in 1938 and he and Marcel Duchamp
promoted her work in Paris and in America. interestingly, it was not
until 1953, a year before she died, that an important exhibition of her
work was staged in Mexico. For many people Frida Kahlo embodies Mexican
art; her home was donated to the country after her death and serves as a