Thèse : Making the “Codex Mendoza”, Constructing the “Codex Mendoza”: A reconsideration of a 16th Century Mexican Manuscript


  • Gomez Tejada, Jorge
  • Miller, Mary Ellen. Directeur


The manuscript that we know as the Codex Mendoza is one of the best-known examples of the convergence of European and Native Mexican artistic traditions. Made in collaboration by Nahua scribe-painters and Spanish interpreters, this manuscript has been at the forefront of Mexican Studies since its arrival in Europe in the mid-16th century. While a traditional history accepts that the manuscript was first painted by native artists and then interpreted by a Spanish commentator, my work shows that the visual and textual narratives of the manuscript are intertwined, revealing a complex process of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration between European and Native scholars and artists that highlights the agency of indigenous individuals in the production of a document with crucial political stakes. I demonstrate how indigenous pictorial traditions, as well as Europeanizing materials and techniques, are deployed as both descriptive and rhetorical devices, carefully used in order to render the object compelling for both its makers and its audience.

Drawing on the scientific analysis of pigments and materials, as well as formal, textual, and historiographical analysis, this dissertation re-examines a foundational document for colonial Latin American studies. I build on previous as well as original research to show that this manuscript cannot be the report on the peoples of Mexico that has been conventionally thought to have been sent by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza to Emperor Charles V, as it is usually characterized. On the contrary, through careful historical and historiographic analyses of the manuscript, I argue that the manuscript is a native elite commission aligned to the ongoing defense of the indigenous population pursued by several notable Spanish clerics such as Bartolomé de Las Casas throughout the first half of the sixteenth century. Furthermore, I examine the way in which this manuscript acquired a historiographic existence over three centuries, becoming the Codex Mendoza only in 1781; I also seek to address the reasons that scholars from Francisco del Paso y Troncoso to Nicholson and Harwood have developed in order to challenge the connection between the manuscript and the Viceroy. In the end, this manuscript can be recognized as a powerful object, whose intended audience went beyond one individual, whose narrative priorities open a direct window into the political and social process of the nascent Viceroyalty of New Spain, and which, in the pen of European and American scholars, has accomplished a prime role in the ongoing process of the invention of the Ancient Americas.

Informations pratiques

  • 2 volumes : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
  • PhD : History of art : Yale University : 2012

OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
Olivier Jacquot (5 août 2023). Thèse : Making the “Codex Mendoza”, Constructing the “Codex Mendoza”: A reconsideration of a 16th Century Mexican Manuscript. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 21 juillet 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)

Vous aimerez aussi...

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur comment les données de vos commentaires sont utilisées.

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search