mexico

Codex Ixtlilxochitl

ImageCodex Ixtlilxochitl

European Paper Manuscript, Early 17th century Image

            The Codex Ixtlilxochitl is a combination of fragments linked to Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, a seventeenth century historian and successor of the leaders of a pre-Columbian city Texcoco. Previously the codex was in three distinct parts. The third segment is believed to be in Ixtlilxochitl’s writing, yet there is disagreement over who assembled the codex, as it has been passed among numerous owners.  The Codex Ixtlilxochitl was obtained from the same source as the Codex Magliabechiano. 

            The subject of the Codex Ixtlilxochitl shows a calendar of yearly rituals performed by the Aztecs throughout their calendrical year. A specific deity or other Aztec figure represents every one of the eighteen months illustrated in the codex. Aztec religion, like most Mesoamerican cultures, had a cyclic nature dependent upon calendrical practices and rituals.  The first section dates from around 1600, and is recognized as a reproduction of a portion of an early cultural index reflecting Aztec rituals.  Eighteen monthly feasts are illustrated and expressed in Spanish, along with two distinct, vibrant images of Quetzalcoatl, and two funeral rites.  The second segment is Juan Bautista Pomar’s (a descendant of Tetzcocan sovereigns) rendition of Aztec gods and other components of their traditions.  Four complete portraits of Tetzcocan lords, Tlaloc (the Aztec water god/top right image), and a depiction of Tetzcoco’s Templo Mayor are illustrated.  The third and final fragment of the Codex Ixtlilxochitl is a literary rendition of the Aztec calendar.

            The Codex Ixtlilxochitl is written in Spanish, contained on twenty-seven sheets of European paper, and accompanied by twenty-nine visual aids. Reflecting the early colonial artistic style of New Spain at the time of its production, this work combines Spanish script with Aztec imagery. The style and medium of the codex are of European influence, but the subject matter is focused on the Aztec past. A page of the codex depicting a priest in the guise of Tlaloc dressed in imperial clothing reflects the colonial artistic notion of transculturation.  The figure of Tlaloc is standing in European contrapposto and has three-dimensional shading characteristic of European art, yet is adorned with Aztec ornaments and dress.

            The existence of the Codex Ixtlilxochitl demonstrates the transculturation occurring between Europeans, mestizos (mixed) and indigenous people in the seventeenth century. This codex serves as a cultural translator in a sense, making the Aztec calendrical rituals more comprehensible to Europeans, and giving a face to prominent Aztec deities.  The desire by Europeans to understand Aztec culture and not simply obliterate it is made clear in this assemblage of work.  The history of multiple owners and creators adds to the historical essence of the Codex Ixtlilxochitl, making this work a representation of Aztec culture from many standpoints.

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