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Theodore de Bry, Christopher Columbus arrives in America, from Collected Travels in the East Indies and West Indies, 1594



Theodore de Bry, Balboa casts the Indians brought together for the unspeakable sin of sodomy to be torn to pieces by dogs, 1594



Theodore de Bry, Indians pour liquid gold into the mouth of a Spaniard, from Collected Travels in the East Indies and West Indies, 1594



Piero di Cosimo, An Allegory of Civilization, ca. 1490


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Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Close of the Silver Age, ca. 1530


Theodoor Galle, Allegory of America, from New Inventions of Modern Times (Nova Reperta), plate 1 of 19, ca. 1600



Around 1541, the first viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, commissioned a codex to record information about the Aztec empire. The codex, now known as the Codex Mendoza, contained information about the lords of Tenochtitlan, the tribute paid to the Aztecs, and an account of life “from year to year.” The artist or artists were indigenous, and the images were often annotated in Spanish by a priest that spoke Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Nahuas (the ethnic group to whom the Aztecs belonged).

From Dr. Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank, "Frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza" (


The Founding of Tenochtitlan, frontispiece for the Codex Mondoza, Aztec, ca. 1541-42




The Codex Tepetlaoztoc, also known as the Codex Kingsborough, is named after the town (whose name means 'stone mat cave') to the east of Lake Tetzcoco where it was produced. This stunning pictorial document was painted in the Tetzcocan style, with some European innovations, by an indigenous tlacuilo (painter-scribe) whose original tracings are still visible beneath the rich pigments. The Spanish alphabetic glosses and commentary are probably by more than one native hand and the information is organised horizontally across the breadth of two facing pages, instead of vertically down their length.

The codex was commissioned by the inhabitants of Tepetlaoztoc and its indigenous governor, Luis de Tepada, probably for the Council of the Indies in Spain, which dealt with the affairs of New Spain. It undoubtedly formed part of a lawsuit brought by Tepetlaoztoc against the town's Spanish encomenderors, overlords entrusted with converting the native inhabitants to Christianity in return for tribute in the form of services and goods. The Spanish abuse of this system led to many complaints by native communities from the mid-sixteenth century.

From Joanne Harwood (


From Codex Tepetlaoztoc, Aztec, 16th century



Unknown Nahua artist, Manuscrito del appereamiento (Munuscript of the Dogging), 1560



Coatlicue Sculpture, Mexico-Tetlochtitlan, 1500


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