The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice magazine - J.J. Borowicz
The book is lavishly illustrated, and the photographic record within is invaluable. The latter part of the book consists of an extensive catalogue of color and infrared images as well as large-scale color reproductions of the reconstruction paintings, presented as inserts. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Mary Miller is Dean of Yale College and Sterling Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. One of the world’s foremost experts on Maya art, she is the author of Art of Meosamerica and coauthor of Blood of Kings (with Linda Schele) and The Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya (with Simon Martin). In 2010 she delivered the 59th A. W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art. Miller is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of many national awards and fellowships.

Claudia Brittenham is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. She is a coauthor of Veiled Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya Color and the author of a forthcoming book on the murals of Cacaxtla, Mexico.

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Table of Contents

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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