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Art of an Empire: The Imagination, Creativity and Craftsmanship of the Aztecs

Art of an Empire: The Imagination, Creativity and Craftsmanship of the Aztecs



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The Aztec Empire, centred at the capital of Tenochtitlan, dominated most of Mesoamerica in the 15th and 16th centuries CE. With military conquest and trade expansion the art of the Aztecs also spread, helping the Aztecs achieve a cultural and political hegemony over their subjects and creating for posterity a tangible record of the artistic imagination and great talent of the artists from this last great Mesoamerican civilization.

Influences

Common threads run through the history of Mesoamerican art. The Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Zapotec civilizations, amongst others, perpetuated an artistic tradition which displayed a love of monumental stone sculpture, imposing architecture, highly decorated pottery, geometric stamps for fabric and body art, and breathtaking metalwork which were all used to represent people, animals, plants, gods and features of religious ceremony, especially those rites and deities connected to fertility and agriculture.

Aztec artists were also influenced by their contemporaries from neighbouring states, especially artists from Oaxaca (a number of whom permanently resided at Tenochtitlan) and the Huastec region of the Gulf Coast where there was a strong tradition of three-dimensional sculpture. These diverse influences and the Aztecs' own eclectic tastes and admiration of ancient art made their art one of the most varied of all ancient cultures anywhere. Sculptures of gruesome gods with abstract imagery could come from the same workshop as naturalistic works which depicted the beauty and grace of the animal and human form.

Features of Aztec Art

Metalwork was a particular skill of the Aztecs. The great Renaissance artist Albrecht Drurer saw some of the artefacts brought back to Europe which caused him to say, '...I have never seen in all my days that which so rejoiced my heart, as these things. For I saw among them amazing artistic objects, and I marvelled over the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands'. Unfortunately, as with most other artefacts, these objects were melted down for currency, and so very few examples survive of the Aztecs' fine metalworking skills in gold and silver. Smaller items have been discovered, amongst them gold labrets (lip piercings), pendants, rings, earrings and necklaces in gold representing everything from eagles to tortoise shells to gods, which are testimony to the skills in lost-wax casting and filigree work of the finest artisans or tolteca.

Aztec sculpture has been a better survivor, and its subject was very often individuals from the extensive family of gods they worshipped. Carved in stone and wood these figures, sometimes monumental in size, were not idols containing the spirit of the god, as in Aztec religion the spirit of a particular deity was thought to reside in sacred bundles kept within shrines and temples. However, it was thought necessary to 'feed' these sculptures with blood and precious objects, hence tales from the Spanish conquistadors of huge statues splattered with blood and encrusted with jewels and gold. Other large sculptures, more in the round, include the magnificent seated god Xochipilli and the various chacmools, reclining figures with a hollow carved in the chest which was used as a receptacle for the hearts of sacrificial victims. These, as with most other Aztec sculpture, would have once been painted using a wide range of bright colours.

Smaller scale sculpture has been found at sites across Central Mexico. These often take the form of local deities and especially gods related to agriculture. The most common are upright female figures of a maize deity, typically with an impressive headdress, and the maize god Xipe Totec. Lacking the finesse of imperial-sponsored art, these sculptures and similar pottery figures often represent the more benevolent side of the Aztec gods.

Aztec Ceremonial Knife ( Trustees of the British Museum )

Miniature work was also popular where subjects such as plants, insects, and shells were rendered in precious materials such as carnelite, pearl, amethyst, rock crystal, obsidian, shell, and the most highly valued of all materials, jade. One other material which was highly prized was exotic feathers, especially the green plumage of the quetzal bird. Feathers cut up into small pieces were used to create mosaic paintings, as decoration for shields, costumes and fans, and in magnificent headdresses such as the one ascribed to Motecuhzoma II which is now in the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna.

Turquoise was a particularly favoured material with Aztec artists, and the use of it in mosaic form to cover sculpture and masks has created some of the most striking imagery from Mesoamerica. A typical example is the decorated human skull which represents the god Tezcatlipoca and which now resides in the British Museum, London. Another fine example is the mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, the god of fire, with sleepy-looking mother-of-pearl eyes and a perfect set of white conch shell teeth. Finally, there is the magnificent double-headed snake pectoral, also now in the British Museum. With carved cedar wood completely covered in small squares of turquoise and the red mouths and white teeth rendered in spondylus and conch shell respectively, the piece was probably once part of a ceremonial costume. The snake was a potent image in Aztec art as the creature, able to shed its skin, represented regeneration and was also particularly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl.

Despite the absence of the potter's wheel, the Aztecs were also skilled with ceramics as indicated by large hollow figures and several beautifully carved lidded-urns which were excavated by the side of the Templo Mayor at Tenochtitlan, probably used as receptacles for funeral ashes. Other examples of ceramic works are the moulded censers with tripod legs from Texcoco, spouted jugs, and elegant hourglass-shaped cups. These vessels are typically thin-walled, well proportioned, have a cream or red and black slip, and carry finely painted geometric designs in earlier designs and flora and fauna in later examples. The most highly-prized ceramics by the Aztecs themselves, and the type which Motecuhzoma himself used, were the ultra-thin Cholula ware from Cholollan in the Valley of Puebla. Vessels could also be made from moulds or carved while the clay was still leather-hard. A fine example of these anthropomorphic vessels is the celebrated vase representing the head of the rain god Tlaloc painted a bright blue, with goggle eyes and fearsome red fangs, now in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

A 15th century CE vase representing the Mesoamerican god of rain, storms and agriculture Tlaloc ( Alex Torres / Flickr )

Musical instruments were another important part of the Aztec artist's repertoire. These included ceramic flutes and wooden teponaztlis and huehuetls, respectively, long and upright ceremonial drums. They are richly decorated with carvings, and one of the finest is the Malinalco drum which is covered in dancing jaguars and eagles who represent sacrificial victims as indicated by banners and speech scrolls of warfare and fire symbols.

Art as Propaganda

The Aztecs, as with their cultural predecessors, employed art as a tool to reinforce their military and cultural dominance. Imposing buildings, frescoes, sculpture and even manuscripts, especially at such key sites as Tenochtitlan, not only represented and even replicated the key elements of Aztec religion, but they also reminded subject peoples of the wealth and power which permitted their construction and manufacture.

The supreme example of this use of art as a conveyor of political and religious messages is the Templo Mayor at Tenochtitlan which was much more than a hugely impressive pyramid. It was carefully designed in every detail to represent the sacred snake mountain of the earth Coatepec, so important in Aztec religion and mythology. This mountain was the site where Coatlicue (the earth) gave birth to her son Huitzilopochtli (the sun), who defeated the other gods (the stars) led by his sister Coyolxauhqui (the moon). A temple to Huitzilopochtli was built on top of the pyramid along with another in honour of the rain god Tlaloc. Further associations with the myth are the snake sculptures lining the base and the Great Coyolxauhqui Stone carved in c. 1473 CE, also found at the base of the pyramid and which represents in relief the dismembered body of the fallen goddess. The stone, along with other such sculptures as the Tizoc Stone, related this cosmic imagery to the contemporary defeat of local enemies. In the case of the Coyolxauhqui Stone, the defeat of the Tlatelolca is being referenced. Finally, the Templo Mayor was itself a repository of art as, when its interior was explored, a vast hord of sculpture and art objects were discovered entombed with the remains of the dead and these pieces are, in many cases, works that the Aztecs had themselves collected from more ancient cultures than their own.

Temples extolling the Aztec view of the world were also constructed in conquered territories. The Aztecs usually left existing political and administrative structures in place, but they did impose their own gods in a hierarchy above local deities, and this was largely done through architecture and art, backed up with sacrificial ceremonies at these new sacred places, typically constructed on previous sacred sites and often in spectacular settings such as on mountain peaks.

Aztec imagery which spread across the empire includes many lesser known deities than Huitzilopochtli and there are a surprising number of examples of nature and agricultural gods. Perhaps the most famous are the reliefs of the water goddess Chalchiuhtlicue on the Malinche Hill near ancient Tula. These and other works of Aztec art were most often made by local artists and may have been commissioned by authorities representing the state or by private colonists from the Aztec heartland. Architectural art, rock carvings of gods, animals and shields, and other art objects have been found across the empire from Puebla to Veracruz and especially around cities, hills, springs, and caves. Further, these works are usually unique, suggesting the absence of any organised workshops.

The Stone of Tizoc ( Dennis Jarvis / Flickr )

Masterpieces

The large circular Stone of Tizoc (carved in c. 1485 CE from basalt) is a masterful mix of cosmic mythology and real-world politics. It was originally used as a surface on which to perform human sacrifice and as these victims were usually defeated warriors it is entirely appropriate that the reliefs around the edge of the stone depict the Aztec ruler Tizoc attacking warriors from the Matlatzinca, an area conquered by Tizoc in the late 15th century CE. The defeated are also portrayed as Chichimecs i.e. landless barbarians, whilst the victors wear the noble dress of the revered ancient Toltec. The upper surface of the stone, 2.67 m in diameter, depicts an eight-pointed sun-disk. The Stone of Tizoc now resides in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Statue of Coatlicue displayed in National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City ( CC by SA 3.0 / Luidger )

The massive basalt statue of Coatlicue (carved in the final half century of Aztec rule) is widely considered one of the finest examples of Aztec sculpture. The goddess is presented in terrifying form with two snake heads, clawed feet and hands, a necklace of dismembered hands and human hearts with a skull pendant, and wearing a skirt of writhing snakes. Perhaps one of a group of four and representing the revelation of female power and terror, the 3.5 m high statue leans slightly forward so that the overall dramatic effect of the piece is so emotive that it is understandable why the statue was actually re-buried several times following its original excavation in 1790 CE. The statue of Coatlicue now resides in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Aztec Sun Stone ( Dennis Jarvis / Flickr )

The Sun Stone, also known as the Calendar Stone (despite the fact that it is not a functioning calendar), must be the most recognisable art object produced by any of the great civilizations of Mesoamerica. Discovered in the 18th century CE near the cathedral of Mexico City, the stone was carved c. 1427 CE and shows a solar disk which presents the five consecutive worlds of the sun from Aztec mythology. The basalt stone is 3.78 m in diameter, almost a metre thick and was once part of the Templo Mayor complex of Tenochtitlan. At the centre of the stone is a representation of either the sun god Tonatiuh (the Day Sun) or Yohualtonatiuh (the Night Sun) or the primordial earth monster Tlaltecuhtli, in the latter case representing the final destruction of the world when the 5th sun fell to earth. Around the central face at four points are the other four suns which successively replaced each other after the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca struggled for control of the cosmos until the era of the 5th sun was reached. On either side of the central face are two jaguar heads or paws, each clutching a heart, representing the terrestrial realm. The two heads at the bottom centre represent fire serpents, and their bodies run around the perimeter of the stone with each ending in a tail. The four cardinal and the inter-cardinal directions are also indicated with larger and lesser points respectively.

As one final example of the wealth of Aztec art which has survived the best destructive efforts of their conquerors, there is the life-sized eagle warrior from Tenochtitlan. The figure, seemingly about to take flight, is in terracotta and was made in four separate pieces. This Eagle Knight wears a helmet representing the bird of prey, has wings and even clawed feet. Remains of stucco suggest that the figure was once covered in real feathers for an even more life-like effect. Originally, it would have stood with a partner, either side of a doorway.

Conclusion

Following the fall of the Aztec Empire the production of indigenous art went into decline. However, some Aztec designs lived on in the work of local artists employed by Augustinian friars to decorate their new churches during the 16th century CE. Manuscripts and feather paintings also continued to be produced, but it was not until the late 18th century CE that an interest in Pre-columbian art and history would lead to a more systematic investigation of just what lay under the foundations of modern Mexican cities. Slowly, an ever-growing number of Aztec artefacts have revealed, in case there had ever been any doubt, proof-positive evidence that the Aztecs were amongst the most ambitious, creative, and eclectic artists that Mesoamerica had ever produced.


Art of an Empire: The Imagination, Creativity and Craftsmanship of the Aztecs - History

Artisans played an important role in the culture of the Mesopotamian people. They made everyday useful items like dishes, pots, clothing, baskets, boats, and weapons. They also created works of art meant to glorify the gods and the king.

The most common material for Mesopotamian artists was clay. Clay was used for pottery, monumental buildings, and tablets used to record history and legends.

The Mesopotamians developed their skills in pottery over thousands of years. At first they used their hands to make simple pots. Later they learned how to use a potter's wheel. They also used high temperature ovens to harden the clay. They learned how to make different shapes, glazes, and patterns. Soon their pottery turned into works of art.

Fine jewelry was a status symbol in Ancient Mesopotamia. Both men and women wore jewelry. Jewelers used fine gemstones, silver, and gold to make intricate designs. They made all sorts of jewelry including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

Around 3000 BC the metal workers of Mesopotamia learned how to make bronze by mixing tin and copper. They would melt the metal at very high temperatures and then poor it into moulds to make all sorts of items including tools, weapons, and sculptures.

Carpenters were important craftsmen in Ancient Mesopotamia. The most important items were made with imported wood such as cedar wood from Lebanon. They built palaces for the kings using cedar. They also constructed chariots for war and ships to travel on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Many fine pieces of wooden craftsmanship were decorated with inlays. They would take small pieces of glass, gems, shells, and metal to make beautiful and shiny decorations on items like furniture, religious pieces, and musical instruments.

Some of the best surviving work of Mesopotamian art and craftsmanship was carved by stonemasons. They carved everything from large sculptures to small detailed reliefs. Most of the sculptures had religious or historical significance. They were usually of the gods or the king.

They also carved small detailed cylinder stones that were used as seals. These seals were quite small because they were used as signatures. They were also quite detailed so they couldn't be easily copied.


Witty Reader

This short yet exceptional book gives an account of the life, economy, religion, art and culture of the early Mexican aborigines. The narration started with rather theoretical origins of the inhabitants of Mexico by a discussion of the environment that provided the framework for a Darwinian evolution. Apparently, the historical accounts on this period principally relied on archaeological excavations. The Lakes, Islands, and Principal
Archaeological Sites in the Valley of Mexico were mapped out in the book.

The richness of nature was ideal for the development of varied fauna which in turn provided food for the now extinct animals and the early man. The only evidence on the presence of primitive man i.e. Stone Age Indians were mainly drawn from the left over scraps of their supposedly hunts.

During the archaic period, the focus on the development of man is its ability to harness its nature to serve its needs. Unlike the Stone Age Indian who relied primitively by preying just like animals, the archaic man were farmers. The nomadic tendencies were altogether altered as this set of early people lived in a social group in a fixed location because of agriculture had become their new means of living. Accordingly, they had more sophisticated equipment made of polished stone. While population was still relatively small, many different groups of Archaic people developed around the lakes e.g. Zacatenco, Tlatilco, etc., for their source of water. These people share basically similar cultures with slight differences in arts as evinced by excavations.

The development of primitive irrigation for agriculture i.e. cultivation of small plot areas (i.e. chinampas) then followed because of climatic reasons. Bernal referred to this era as the formative period. It was believed that a period of drought forced early humans to find ways to get adequate yield from the dry spell, which also changed flora and fauna of the place. The formative period also marked cultural development brought about by the other groups coming from western Mexico and the Olmec tribes.

The classic period is tantamount to the commencement of ancient Mexican history during which marked the evolution of the civilization of Mesoamerica . This is the era of the Teotihuacan which reflected a fully urban civilization. This was an age of unity among the people of Central Mexico in terms of culture, religion and economy However, food crisis, insurgencies and religious conflicts eventually destroyed the civilization, after which militaristic and dictatorial militias thrived in the period of chaos. The Teotihuacán city perished in flames (Bernal, I., 1963, pp47-48). And their history was transformed into a myth by the next group of people that occupied the place, the Tol­tecs of Tula. Because of their great architectural and mechanical skills, they were described as Master Builders. Bernal may have considered the era of the Toltecs as an Interregnum because it is a transition between two great civilizations, succeeding the Tenochca and preceding the Aztec empire. The Toltecs or civilized persons are Nahua-speaking natives who came to Culhuacan and established their capital in Tula Hidalgo . (Vaillant, G.C., 1962, p41). In the cosmological tale the Legend of the Suns, the Fifth Sun represents the Toltecs, who were described as perfect men because of their near perfect agricultural capabilities in raising crops and corns.

A massive attack of semi nomadic peoples called Chichimecs invaded the civilized Toltec people that led to the fall of Tula . These barbarian hunters were described with uncultured characters but formed alliances for territorial expansion. Bernal also gave brief etymology of Chichimecs to better understand their origins and culture.

Finally, the Aztecs particularly the Tenochcas of what will later be known as Mexico City arose and flourished from the ashes of Toltect-Chichimec period. At this point, Bernal made more specific and detailed accounts on the political and economic history of Aztecs. The Aztecs used family as the basic social institution and formed a quasi democratic form of governance, in which a central council composed of tribal leaders makes decisions. The domestic and tribal economy offered the food, shelter, tools and clothing. Agriculture was still the principal means of livelihood, which is also the basis for the division of territorial lands. Living intimately in contact with nature, the Aztecs developed a high degree of skillful craftsmanship. Naturally, inclination for creative decorations was produced for religious offering, which now forms part of their arts. Basically, the sculpture of their Gods evinced their artistic talents and building of religious temples reflected their architectural dexterity.

Aside from description of the Aztec lifestyle and culture, Bernal also specified the elite that shaped the Aztec ancient history. Acamapichtli, the first Mexican king is from whom was born the first king whose mother is not of nobility, Izcoatl. This triggered revolts of several countries that wanted to break free from Azcapotzalco. With his strong military acumen. Izcoatl formed an alliance with Chichimec dynasty that helped neutralized the Tepanec cities. The Aztecs were at their zenith of development until a group of invaders from Europe came. Cortes with hundreds of men came equipped with modern artillery, cannon, horses, etc to conquer and defeat the Aztecs.

This book completely covered the evolution of man and civilization in Mexico . It started in a rather scientific account for a Darwinian style of evolution, the psychological and rational tendencies of man in reaction to nature, the development of capability, the social development that cultivated civilization and finally the early political elites that shaped that fate of the people. Along the course of the narration are quotations from Indian authors that fit into the puzzle that interpretations to archeological excavations can evince. These additional sources of information e.g. Legend of the Suns helped people to completely understand the growth of Indian civilization in Mexico under the nuance of a rather spiritual tone. Pictures of the artifacts and sculpture provide a salient view of the great Mexican civilizations and helped audience to better appreciate antiquities. In terms of reading history books, the pictures and diagrams provide an ambiance for better grasping the context of the accounts in the book making it more interesting. Among the outstanding artifacts that help people visualize the narration are the Great Pyramid of Tula and the Adjoining Colonnade, The Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacán and the Colossal Statue of the "Goddess of the Water."

Bernal, I. (1963). Mexico Before Cortez: Art, History, and Legend. (Garden City, New York : Doubleday and Company, Inc.,


Aztec design artists were typically persons who were commissioned either by the state or the rich nobility to create pieces of art. Lower classes were forbidden to either create or own art, so the creation of art was regulated by the richer classes.

The Aztec artists were called “tolteca” which meant skilled craftsmen. The artists were esteemed and richly rewarded for their work. Some artists, skilled in arts not practised within the Aztec Empire, were called from other states to work in the city of Tenochtitlan.


Aztec Martial Arts?

Wasn't Mexico linked to the Phillipines in some way? Through trade of goods iirc?

That may explain any phillipino influence on martial arts and vice vera.

Kampfringen

Did they have them? Sure. The evidence is there that they had Martial Arts but the evidence of what that art was is not there. Lost and gone forever unfortunately.

I'm not surprised there is a group out there claiming to teach "Aztec Martial Arts". They are just like the many other groups claiming to teach viking, roman, ancient Greek, alien, cromagnon man. etc. "Martial Arts". They are simply making it up and claiming false ancient lineages. Although there are many Martial Arts today who claim ancient lineages and they are no more ancient than the 20th Century AD.

"Even the concept of the sword is found in the Macuahuitl more or less."
I don't think he understands the concept of the sword, more or less.

Mangekyou

Thanks for the info. This would certainly explain influences going either way then, as trade usually flows through different colonies of an empire.

Would you say they developed Escrima, this way, or methods similar to Escrima? It would be viable, imo, given the nature of the discipline.

Kampfringen

The Aztecs developing methods similar to escrima? or are you referring to.
"That may explain any phillipino influence on martial arts and vice vera." .

You would have to be able to document some influence from Europe to the Philipines and to the Aztecs and so on and so forth. i don't see that being possible since we do not know what the Art the Aztecs practiced. Making a connection from Europe to the Philipines is hard enough. Or even finding out what the Art they practiced in the Philipines prior to the Europeans is impossible. They didn't have any written records. We cannot know what the Art was even though we know there was an Art. Mind bottling isn't it.

It's still all speculation that cannot be confirmed yea or nay.

Mangekyou

The Aztecs developing methods similar to escrima? or are you referring to.
"That may explain any phillipino influence on martial arts and vice vera." .

You would have to be able to document some influence from Europe to the Philipines and to the Aztecs and so on and so forth. i don't see that being possible since we do not know what the Art the Aztecs practiced. Making a connection from Europe to the Philipines is hard enough. Or even finding out what the Art they practiced in the Philipines prior to the Europeans is impossible. They didn't have any written records. We cannot know what the Art was even though we know there was an Art. Mind bottling isn't it.

It's still all speculation that cannot be confirmed yea or nay.

Kampfringen

Oops missed that. I would say the macauhtil would definitely be more like a stick than a sword. The reason for calling it a sword is not because it is used like a sword. It is a club with razor sharp obsidian and not really a sword in use.

Would it be similar to Eskrima? Again no way to know for sure.

Mangekyou

Oops missed that. I would say the macauhtil would definitely be more like a stick than a sword. The reason for calling it a sword is not because it is used like a sword. It is a club with razor sharp obsidian and not really a sword in use.

Would it be similar to Eskrima? Again no way to know for sure.

Kampfringen

But then the question would have to be raised as to .
Why would stick fighting from a backward tribes people be needed in Europe where the most sophisticated Martial Arts in the world were conquering the world? Not meaning to sound rude in anyway just pointing out the obvious.

Also, The Europeans were familiar with their own stick fighting. What do the Martial Arts of the Philipines have to offer Europe?

The Philipinos may be saying the same thing. What do these hairy barbarians have to offer us to our Art?

Mangekyou

Martial arts is about expression and many martial arts assimilate. We are not talking about the importing of the system to Spain though are we. We are talking about the Aztecs being exposed to other systems. If trade was frequent between the countries, then I don't see why they could not have been exposed to it through proxy.

New fighting styles, new techniques. Again though, we are not talking about exposure to the continent, but a frontier colony.

Kampfringen

Why Not? Because they don't need it. They had their own. Stick fighting is not as important as the plethora of other weapons of the day in close combat either.

Martial Arts is not about self expression. At least Martial Arts then. The term has a different meaning today. Wrong kind of art. Not fine arts. The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture. This is not used as a definition of art until after 1600. The Art in Martial Art is the old definition. Skills acquired by experience, study, and observation. A branch of learning.
Are we talking about exposure now? Or different arts influencing each other? I thought we were discussing the latter. Exposure by proxy does not equate to influencing each others arts. Would this not be especially true in relation to Martial arts?


SOUTH WEST

FROM HOLBEIN TO HOCKNEY: A HISTORY OF BRITISH PORTRAIT PAINTING

30 June 2021, 10.00am–3.30pm
Lecturer: Valerie Woodgate

Portrait painting has been more prolific in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. Explore the reasons for this and consider how the artist reveals information about their sitters and the social and political circumstances in which they were painted. Artistic changes in portraiture over several centuries will also be explored.

Venue: Buckfast Abbey Conference Centre, Buckfastleigh, Devon TQ11 0EG
Cost: £39 (including coffee & buffet lunch)

Contact: Sarah Merchant – [email protected] T: 01398 341973. For more details visit www.theartssocietysw.org.uk

DECODING ART - A GUIDE TO ART HISTORY

23, 30 September & 7, 14 & 21 October 2021, 10.30am - 3.30pm
Lecturers: Geri Parlby & Jeni Fraser

Learn more about Greek art in the archaic and classical period and also the art of the Byzantine East in the not so dark ages. Explore the work of women artists across the ages before going down-under to discover the diversity of Aboriginal art. Examine medicine in art and a toxic tale of poisonous pigments.

Venue: Museum of Somerset, Castle Green, Taunton TA1 4AA

DECODING ART - A GUIDE TO ART HISTORY

4, 11, 18 & 25 November & 2 December 2021, 10.30am - 3.30pm
Lecturers: Geri Parlby & Jeni Fraser

The birth and flowering of the Renaissance Period from Duccio in early C14th Sienna through to the Elizabethan period in the C16th covering France, Germany and England. Also lectures on Fifty Shades of Blue and Mass & Form - sculpture from Rodin to the present day.

Venue: Exeter Central Library, Castle Street, Exeter EX4 3PQ

Price: £130 (full course)
Contact: Carol Cathcart - [email protected]
Additional information: www.theartssocietysw.org.uk


Inside the Aztec empire

It’s the year 1500. A buyer and a seller are haggling in the massive Aztec marketplace of Tlatelolco, over chiles, cacao beans or copal incense perhaps. It’s getting heated.

“Swallow-mouthed!” (Such a chatterer!)

“Have you become a wild bee?” (So puffed up.)

“Where is the sorcerer?” (Are you trying to stiff me?)

“Is it your real nose?” (Honestly?)

Welcome to "Everyday Life in the Aztec World," a new book co-authored by archaeologist Michael Smith, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Incredibly vivid and detailed, the book takes readers on a tour of one of Mesoamerica’s greatest civilizations through the daily lives of six people – the emperor, a priest, a featherworker, a merchant, a farmer and a slave – and four events – the birth of a child, a market day, a day in court and a battle.

The book is like a trip back through time with two expert guides. Interspersed throughout the chapters are fictional vignettes like the haggling at the market, a frantic novice priest who finds himself short of human sacrifices on the eve of an important ceremony, a slave who has been slacking off weaving and learns her owners are considering selling her to the priests, and an ambitious farmer who may have bitten off more than he can chew.

But it’s not exactly fiction. Every single detail and fact is real.

“We’re not novelists,” said Smith of his collaboration with Frances Berdan, professor emeritus of anthropology at California State University, San Bernadino. “We’re scholars.”

Smith has worked in Mexico for decades and directs ASU’s Teotihuacan Research Laboratory in Mexico. Berdan speaks Nahuatl, the Aztec language, and is an expert on Spanish colonial documents like the Florentine Codex, a 16th-century ethnography written by the Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún.

“We both sort of had fun with these little fictional vignettes,” Smith said. “That kind of thing is fun to do, but if you do too much of it … We're trying to write history we're trying to write archeology. We're not trying to write fiction about the Aztecs, but adding those (vignettes) sort of lends a certain level of immediacy to it. And it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and the ones that I wrote tie in … to specific sites I've worked at and things I've done.”

Even if you’re somewhat familiar with the period and culture, surprising facts leap out:

  • Priests were regarded as somewhat creepy. “There was probably a basic wariness around someone who controlled mysterious and powerful forces,” Smith said. Not helping may have been the fact that priests never washed their hair, which was matted with dried human blood from sacrifices. (Aztecs were clean people who bathed regularly.)
  • If things weren’t working out for you, you could simply pick up and leave. It wasn’t medieval Europe, where that wasn’t an option. You went to another village and pled your case before the local council, who would place you with a family who needed help with farming or pottery making or the like.
  • If things really weren’t working out for you, you could sell yourself into slavery. You could also buy your way out of it (although it wasn’t easy).
  • One category of society were “bathed” slaves, destined for a one-way trip to the top of a temple, and there was no way out of that.

Along the way, the book provides glimpses of Aztec culture that remain today in Mexico. For instance, Aztec markets were almost exactly like big Mexican markets today, like the Libertad in Guadalajara, where everything has its own place: the saddle aisle, the live bird aisle, and so on. The Tlatelolco marketplace was surrounded by arcades, as in many Mexican cities today, where goods cost a bit more than those sold out on the plaza. And the basic setup for a seller — goods spread out on a tarp on the ground, with an awning overhead to shield the sun – has not changed at all in five centuries.

“I think a lot of what still exists in Mexico today in Mexican culture are not the big things like the empire and the big pyramids and the sacrifices, the offerings — it's the everyday kinds of things,” Smith said. “It's the way people build their houses and the way things are laid out on the ground, the marketplaces, that kind of thing.”

As the introduction notes, “We are fortunate to glimpse this colorful, vibrant world.”

Top image: Aztec stone cuauhxicalli of Moctezuma. Aztec Gallery of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia


The Arts And Crafts

The Arts and Crafts movement did bring about some major changes in decorative arts, which makes it simpler for people to make decorative items along with other works of art, such as furniture.The Arts and Crafts much of the emphasis from the Arts and Crafts Movement was on the creation of handcrafted objects with high standards of quality. The Arts and Crafts Additionally, it highlighted the value of the individual artisan in addition to their capacity to customize works in addition to their capacity to express their creativity through their crafts. This focus on the individual craftsman extends to today’s contemporary architects as well.

When most crafts designers don’t attempt and create the specific same type of thing again, the Arts and Crafts Movement encouraged the continuous creation of new decorative pieces. In fact, there have been an endless number of”improvements” the craftsmen and women in this movement could make. The Arts and Crafts Movement also encouraged creativity and the sharing of innovative ideas, which is among the hallmarks of craftsmanship.

British Accent

British accent in the first part of the 19th century, there was a design of decorative arts called the British Accent. British accentthis decorative design was actually quite like the Arts and Crafts Movement, but the British Accent had a more traditional, antique look to it. This style can be referred to as Victorian or Regency. This fashion was really the first type of decorating design to be adopted by the Victorians.

The Arts and Crafts Movement also boosted the production of items like paintings and glassworks. This was actually the very first true attempt to use modern technology in art creation. A number of the items made during that time period are regarded as some of the greatest examples of floral decorations that were made in the past two centuries. One of the most popular products from this time frame was the tea or vase table, which is still a very common product now.

Victorian

Victorian throughout the late part of the Victorian era, the Arts and Crafts Movement took a substantially different direction. Victorian as opposed to focusing on decorative arts, this movement concentrated more on furniture. Victorian the Arts and Crafts Movement supported the creation of a new type of furniture known as the Arts and Crafts Furniture, which were completely different from the normal furniture that was being generated at the time. This new furniture was designed to mimic the decorative arts crafts of yesteryear, but it was produced in much larger amounts.

In the last few years, the Arts and Crafts Movement have come to be much less fashionable. In fact, lots of people would agree the Arts and Crafts movements have become somewhat boring and they have lost a lot of their initial function. However, there are still a great deal of individuals who like decorating their houses with things made from natural substances.

Hi all ! I'am Edward from Illinois. I am a civil engineer and I have 4 children :) I will inform to about art.


Cross-curricular learning

Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.
For more up-to-date guidance see:

This resource is free to everyone. For access to hundreds of other high-quality resources by primary history experts along with free or discounted CPD and membership of a thriving community of teachers and subject leaders, join the Historical Association today

Cross-curricular work offers a creative way to develop children's knowledge, skills and understanding while motivating them to learn through stimulating, interconnected topics. A study which crosses subject boundaries allows for investigations that engage children's imagination. It also gives teachers opportunities to encourage active enquiry, taking the initiative, and discussion and debate by children.

As history is above all the study of the human condition, it provides us with endless opportunities for fostering children's personal development.

In all cross-curricular topics, the history provides an ideal context for extending children's literacy, in speaking and listening, reading and writing. See History and Literacy.

Curriculum breadth and balance. This is considered at the long-term planning stage. Long-term plans exist to ensure that pupils receive their entitlement to the whole primary curriculum. They map the curriculum for the school over a whole year, and are generally the responsibility of the Senior Leadership Team.

Links between subjects. Make links real, not contrived. Choose areas where genuine connections between subjects occur naturally. Will the connections make sense to the children? On the school's long-term plan, look for any obvious links between subjects and areas. For example, if for geography you plan to study Mexico as a locality, and for history to study a world civilisation, choose the Aztecs, as this will create a genuine history/geography cross-curricular topic, into which you can build social understanding.

Coherence. Teaching cross-curricular topics does not mean doing the kind of unfocused topic work that was common before the introduction of the National Curriculum and was heavily criticised by HMI in 1978. Good cross-curricular topics can include several subjects, but there should be just one or two lead subjects. The lead subject provides a framework and focus for the topic.

Keep track of subject objectives. Use your medium- and short-term plans to map the learning objectives for each separate subject to be included in the cross-curricular topic. Even though the teaching may be integrated, objectives should be identified as history, PSCHE, geography, and so on. This is the only way to check your coverage of the primary curriculum overall, and to plan for progression in each subject.

Ensuring progression. There is a difference between children making progress in a subject and doing a bit of practice in it. For example, in a local study, asking children to make a key for a historical map does not in itself ensure progression in geography, though it will give the children the opportunity to use and apply geography knowledge, skills and understanding in a purposeful context.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Am I tackling substantive concepts, knowledge or skills in all the subjects included in the topic?
  • Will the children be making real progress in each subject?
  • If not, will they be using and applying such subject knowledge in the course of a cross-curricular topic?

Framework and focus

You can give your cross-curricular topic a coherent framework through:

Key concepts
These are powerful tools for developing thinking and understanding.

At key stage 1, the key concepts of change and continuity could involve shopping, transport or school, comparing now with then - parents' or grandparents' generation - and involve geography (surveys, maps), art (such as collage of a street now and then) and maths (using and applying - pictorial graphs), as well as the key subject of history.

At key stage 2, studying aspects of British history provides an ideal historical framework for examining concepts of change and continuity. It could incorporate RE (new religions in Britain) geography (change/continuity involving a locality and/or a geographical theme - water, settlement, environment) music (continuity - classical change - such as rock/punk/rap) ICT (now and fifty years ago), and so on.

A main theme (such as Our school, or The story of flight). The latter is an old favourite at key stage 1, and makes a good cross-curricular history-led topic, incorporating design technology and science (when we taught it, hot air balloons and paper aeroplanes were the focus of science and design experiments) See also Creativity.

A specific focus (such as Local study). Local studies are perfect for both key stages and are available to us all. Using the local area as the focus of learning can serve different subjects splendidly and naturally. Studying local history always involves geography (using maps and plans and looking at settlement and change) and social understanding, as children enquire into people's beliefs, attitudes and environment in the past. Local studies can also include art, design, science, RE and other subjects, as in our cross-curricular project on local urban parks and gardens. Here the two key themes are: The parks and their environs in the past and People, plants and animals in the parks. See Urban spaces.

Practical approaches

There are so many ways to teach exciting, enquiry-led topics that link history with geography and social understanding, as well as with subjects in Rose's other five areas:

1 History-led topic, e.g. investigating historical sites and buildings includes elements of geography see e.g. Castles in KS1 and a Local Study in KS2. See also The Great Fire of London, which includes art, drama, story-writing and poetry.

2 Topic with two lead subjects, such as history and literacy. Most of our lessons include the teaching of literacy, but for those with particularly strong joint history/literacy objectives see: Boudicca, Haughmond Abbey, Slate mines, Two mining disasters, a Tudor Tempest, the two Archimedes and the Kings crown and Archimedes and the Syracusan War, and Great Fire of London lesson 1 and Great Fire of London lesson 4.

3 History could form one strand in a more general topic. See, for example, our Urban spaces investigation. Key stage 1 teachers have traditionally taught through topics. See these key stage 1 lessons for history taught as part of topics:

  • Flight: a science and design technology topic, with history stories providing a chronological thread and a stimulus to science and design technology activities Flight: cross-curricular lessons
  • People who help us: Florence Nightingale, a history and literacy sub-topic.
  • Local history: Magdalen Road, a geography, history, art and literacy topic.
  • Winter: Geography and history topic, focusing on weather, conditions for survival, and Scott and Amundsens journeys.
  • Water: The stories of Columbus and Magellan formed the history part of this topic. The history-focused lessons included discussion and debate, role play and design. See Columbus: was he a hero?Columbus the explorer: story-telling and Magellan(coming soon).
  • Toys and games: The topic focused on forces in science, storytelling in English and objects and pictures in history. See Toys and games.

Key questions

Drive your topic with key questions they will provide a purpose for activities. For example in a Mexico/Aztecs, history/geography and social understanding topic:


Inside the Aztec empire

It’s the year 1500. A buyer and a seller are haggling in the massive Aztec marketplace of Tlatelolco, over chiles, cacao beans or copal incense perhaps. It’s getting heated.

“Swallow-mouthed!” (Such a chatterer!)

“Have you become a wild bee?” (So puffed up.)

“Where is the sorcerer?” (Are you trying to stiff me?)

“Is it your real nose?” (Honestly?)

Welcome to "Everyday Life in the Aztec World," a new book co-authored by archaeologist Michael Smith, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Incredibly vivid and detailed, the book takes readers on a tour of one of Mesoamerica’s greatest civilizations through the daily lives of six people – the emperor, a priest, a featherworker, a merchant, a farmer and a slave – and four events – the birth of a child, a market day, a day in court and a battle.

The book is like a trip back through time with two expert guides. Interspersed throughout the chapters are fictional vignettes like the haggling at the market, a frantic novice priest who finds himself short of human sacrifices on the eve of an important ceremony, a slave who has been slacking off weaving and learns her owners are considering selling her to the priests, and an ambitious farmer who may have bitten off more than he can chew.

But it’s not exactly fiction. Every single detail and fact is real.

“We’re not novelists,” said Smith of his collaboration with Frances Berdan, professor emeritus of anthropology at California State University, San Bernadino. “We’re scholars.”

Smith has worked in Mexico for decades and directs ASU’s Teotihuacan Research Laboratory in Mexico. Berdan speaks Nahuatl, the Aztec language, and is an expert on Spanish colonial documents like the Florentine Codex, a 16th-century ethnography written by the Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún.

“We both sort of had fun with these little fictional vignettes,” Smith said. “That kind of thing is fun to do, but if you do too much of it … We're trying to write history we're trying to write archeology. We're not trying to write fiction about the Aztecs, but adding those (vignettes) sort of lends a certain level of immediacy to it. And it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and the ones that I wrote tie in … to specific sites I've worked at and things I've done.”

Even if you’re somewhat familiar with the period and culture, surprising facts leap out:

  • Priests were regarded as somewhat creepy. “There was probably a basic wariness around someone who controlled mysterious and powerful forces,” Smith said. Not helping may have been the fact that priests never washed their hair, which was matted with dried human blood from sacrifices. (Aztecs were clean people who bathed regularly.)
  • If things weren’t working out for you, you could simply pick up and leave. It wasn’t medieval Europe, where that wasn’t an option. You went to another village and pled your case before the local council, who would place you with a family who needed help with farming or pottery making or the like.
  • If things really weren’t working out for you, you could sell yourself into slavery. You could also buy your way out of it (although it wasn’t easy).
  • One category of society were “bathed” slaves, destined for a one-way trip to the top of a temple, and there was no way out of that.

Along the way, the book provides glimpses of Aztec culture that remain today in Mexico. For instance, Aztec markets were almost exactly like big Mexican markets today, like the Libertad in Guadalajara, where everything has its own place: the saddle aisle, the live bird aisle, and so on. The Tlatelolco marketplace was surrounded by arcades, as in many Mexican cities today, where goods cost a bit more than those sold out on the plaza. And the basic setup for a seller — goods spread out on a tarp on the ground, with an awning overhead to shield the sun – has not changed at all in five centuries.

“I think a lot of what still exists in Mexico today in Mexican culture are not the big things like the empire and the big pyramids and the sacrifices, the offerings — it's the everyday kinds of things,” Smith said. “It's the way people build their houses and the way things are laid out on the ground, the marketplaces, that kind of thing.”

As the introduction notes, “We are fortunate to glimpse this colorful, vibrant world.”

Top image: Aztec stone cuauhxicalli of Moctezuma. Aztec Gallery of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia


Watch the video: I love Art. Rock Art. Uchitt Imaginations (August 2022).