Thèse : The production and reproduction of “Aztec” bodies: Translating pictorial and textual discourses on the human body from Sahagún’s “Florentine Codex” (1579) to Antonio Peñafiel’s “Indumentaria Antigua Mexicana” (1903)


  • De Leon, Ann E.
  • Castro-Klaren, Sara. Directeur


This dissertation studies the various interpretations performed on the iconography of the “Aztec” human body in Sahagún’s Florentine Codex (1579), and explores how Mexican and European intellectuals from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries were equipped to decode the iconography of “Aztec” bodies. The first part of this thesis engages the problem of cultural translation on the iconography of the human body. Here (1) I provide a new reading of the iconography of Malinche and Cortés in the Florentine Codex informed by Aztec Cosmovision and (2) develop a cultural and intellectual history of the diverse iconographic readings carried out on the sculpture of the Aztec goddess Coatlicue. By appropriating European iconography and alphabetic texts into Amerindian Cosmovision, the tlacuiloschose to represent their colonial present not as the demise of their world, but as a continuation of it (within their cyclical view of time). The second part of this thesis investigates the deployment of Aztec bodies by the nineteenth-century scholar, surgeon, and military man Antonio Peñafiel in his Indumentaria Antigua (1903). I investigate how projects, such as those of Peñafiel, relied on the emergence of the discipline of Archeology and the formation of national museums, where Aztec material culture could be displayed and read using a Eurocentric apparatus of knowledge. This section also examines how the nineteenth century writes itself onto colonial spaces by reproducing the iconography of “Aztec” bodies as European bodies. This “Aztec Palimpsest,” persisted from the sixteenth century until the subsequent categorization of Aztec cultural productions into the language based categories of Western literature by Garibay and León-Portilla in the twentieth century. This type of iconographic interpretation was further reinforced by two of Mexico’s most renowned literary figures: Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes.

Informations pratiques

  • Baltimore : The Johns Hopkins University, 2007, 453 p.
  • Doctor of Philosophy

Olivier Jacquot

Responsable de la valorisation et des données de la recherche > Coordination de la recherche > Délégation à la stratégie et à la recherche > Bibliothèque nationale de France

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