Thèse : Disguising ritual : a re-assessment of Part 3 of the Codex Mendoza


  • Harwood, Joanne


This thesis re-assesses Part 3 of the Codex Mendoza, an early colonial pictorial manuscript believed to have been produced in Mexico City (formerly Tenochtitlan) at the behest of Viceroy Mendoza (1535–1550) and now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The least-studied third section contains a detailed account of life in Tenochtitlan from birth to old age. Parts 1 and 2 deal respectively with the reigns and conquests of the city’s Mexica lords and the tribute they exacted from the Aztec empire. Although all three sections are clearly the work of the same tlacuilo (indigenous painter-scribe) Part 3 has traditionally been distinguished as the only section with no pre-Cortesian antecedents. Instead it is thought to have been invented in response to Spanish questions. As a ‘unique’, ‘ethnographic’ document Part 3 has been treated in isolation from the rest of the codex and other native pictorial manuscripts.

A review of the historical and physical evidence, however, suggests that the Codex Mendoza was produced independently of Spaniards and that Part 3 was conceived as integral to the overall manuscript. Comparisons between images of native justice in Part 3 and a broad range of pictorial documents, furthermore, suggest that this section has pre-Cortesian antecedents in ritual books, or teoamoxtli. Specifically Part 3 relates to chapters in the teoamoxtli that deal with the 260-day calendar or tonalpohualli, used to determine the fate of humans and their activities. In dealing essentially with labour tribute Part 3 forms a logical complement to Parts 1 and 2, which deal with conquest and commodity tribute in relation to the 365-day yearly calendar. The division of these types of tribute in the Codex Mendoza continues a pattern found in the teoamoxtli and other colonial manuscripts and proclaims an ancient harmony already largely destroyed by the Spanish conquest and colonization.

Informations pratiques

  • Essex : University of Essex, 2002.
  • 1 vol. (iv, 356 p., [87] f. de pl., 1 f. pl.) : ill ; 31 cm.
  • Thesis (PhD) : Art history : University of Essex : 2002

Citer ce billet
Olivier Jacquot (2020, 23 novembre). Thèse : Disguising ritual : a re-assessment of Part 3 of the Codex Mendoza. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 13 avril 2024, à l’adresse

Olivier Jacquot

Chargé de collections : manuscrits des fonds américains, Service des manuscrits ORientaux (SOR), département des Manuscrits (MSS), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

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