On Dedications and Devils

Comparing Visual Representations in Early Colonial Mesoamerican Sources and Guaman Poma’s Nueva Corónica or ‘Inca Chronicle’ 

Jesper Nielsen (ToRS, University of Copenhagen)
Mettelise Fritz Hansen (Independent scholar)

In this presentation we discuss the shared visual framework of the friars and other authors and artists, including indigenous writers, in the 16th-17th century, who were working, according to a well-established tradition, drawing upon many of the same templates and visual genres, comparable to reliance on specific literary genres of the period (probanzas, letters of complaint, testaments, land claims etc.).

Here we present some preliminary observations on the ways early colonial author-artists in Mesoamerica and in the Andes (and specifically Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala), depicted two different categories or topics: The presentation or dedication of the illustrated work to an important political authority (local or distant), on the one hand, and supernatural creatures and entities (gods, spirits, ancestors) and associated rituals on the other. The goal is to better understand the similarities and differences in the production of the images, and the underlying cultural biases and social framework, which deeply affected the ways in which gods and ancestors and other supernatural entities were represented visually. We thus compare and discuss a selection of images from a series of early colonial Mesoamerican sources, such as Bernardino de Sahagún’s Florentine Codex (c. 1580) and Guaman Poma’s Nueva Corónica (1615). While recent research has demonstrated the widespread use of European templates in the Florentine Codex, just as it has been previously remarked, that Guaman Poma found inspiration for several of his illustrations in 15-16th century European books, the rich imagery of these two areas of the New World has never been subjected to a careful comparison.

The presentation is open to all interested.

For further information please contact Jesper Nielsen (jnielsen@hum.ku.dk )