The spectacle of the late Maya court : reflections on the murals of Bonampak


    • Brittenham, Claudia
    • Hurst, Heather
    • Ashby, Leonard
    • Bonampak Documentation Project


The spectacle of the late Maya court : reflections on the murals of Bonampak

by Mary Miller and Claudia Brittenham ; with new reconstruction paintings by Heather Hurst & Leonard Ashby for the Bonampak Documentation Project

(The William & Bettye Nowlin series in art, history, and culture of the Western Hemisphere)

University of Texas Press, 2013

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Three folded leaves of plates in pocket

Includes bibliographical references (p. 245-253) and index



Located within the deep tropical rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico, the Maya site of Bonampak is home to the most complete and magnificent mural program of the ancient Americas. In three rooms, a pageant of rulership opens up, scene by scene, like pages of an ancient Maya book. Painted c. AD 800, the murals of Bonampak reveal a complex and multifaceted view of the ancient Maya at the end of their splendor during the last days of the Classic era. Members of the royal court engage in rituals and perform human sacrifice, dance in extravagant costumes and strip the clothing from fallen captives, acknowledge foreign nobles, and receive abundant tribute. The murals are a powerful and sophisticated reflection on the spectacle of courtly life and the nature of artistic practice, a window onto a world that could not know its doomed future. This major new study of the paintings of Bonampak incorporates insights from decades of art historical, epigraphic, and technical investigation of the murals, framing questions about artistic conception, facture, narrative, performance, and politics. Lavishly illustrated, this book assembles thorough documentation of the Bonampak mural program, from historical photographs of the paintings-some never before published-to new full-color reconstructions by artist Heather Hurst, recipient of a MacArthur award, and Leonard Ashby. The book also includes a catalog of photographs, infrared images, and line drawings of the murals, as well as images of all the glyphic texts, which are published in their entirety for the first time. Written in an engaging style that invites both specialists and general readers alike, this book will stand as the definitive presentation of the paintings for years to come.


List of Tables List of Illustrations Preface, by Mary Miller Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2. Artistic Conception Principles Program Planning and Execution Chapter 3. The Story in the Murals Sequence Text and Image Crowded Courts, Absent Kings Chapter 4. Time, Motion, and Performance Performing Victory in Room 2 The Performative Now in Room 1 Dance, Performance, and Death in Room 3 Chapter 5. Art and Politics Art and Collapse The Disintegrating Usumacinta After the Fall Chapter 6. Conclusion Catalog Bibliography Index

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