Friday, 2 May 2014

Aztec Pin Ups

Last weekend I went to see the new Aztecs exhibition at the Melbourne Museum with my father. It's well worth the (rather steep I thought) admission price as there are some real treasures on display, including some arresting statues and beautifully made pottery. They've done a good job showing visitors' what daily life was like, with some very detailed (modern) models of people in a market, and a miniature floating market garden with tiny little vegetables and tiny people looking after them.

Along one wall is a reproduction of a Diego Rivera Mural of the Aztec market Tlatelolco (the original is in the Palacio National in Mexico City). The picture above is a detail of this, showing a courtesan who I thought was rather striking.

Dancer with Toucan, 1942

Then I remembered these lovely paintings of Aztec pin ups from the book Mexican Calendar Girls. They are by a German artist called Armando Drechsler who arrived in Mexico City in the mid-1920s.

Goddess of Fire, 1952

There's not much information (at least in English) about him, but apparently he worked in oils and specialised in painting for calendars. Mostly women in traditional dress, as well as some beautiful and fanciful paintings of Aztec princesses.

Princess with a Puma, 1942

These highly romanticized paintings of Aztec beauties appealed to a sense of Mexican nationalism that embraced pre-Conquest mythology and ethnic traditions.

Xiuhcoatl, 1942

This painting shows the mythical serpent Xiuhcoatl, here shown as a beautiful woman.

The model for this painting is mostly likely the actress Anna May Wong, here shown as La Malinche, the interpreter, advisor and lover of Hernán Cortés. She is a controversial figure in Mexican history as she is seen as both the embodiment of treachery, and also as one of the founding figures of Mexican history. 

Anna May Wong

Finally I just want to add this painting, which is actually a Mayan princess, but it's so beautiful I thought I should include it. I love the combination of the quintessentially 1930s Hollywood glamour with the exquisitely detailed Mayan sculpture and jewellery. You can tell that Drechsler really studied these artifacts.

Mayan Princess, 1942

1 comment:

  1. oooh, so gorgeous! I might stop in to see the Aztecs exhibition while I'm in town.