REPORT OF JEAN CHARLOT ON THE SCULPTURES COPIED IN THE FIELD SEASON OF l928[1]

JEAN CHARLOT

No new sculptured unit having been discovered this season, the duty of the copyist consisted mainly in completing the work already done, getting it fitted for publication.  Also some carvings discovered previously but not yet reproduced were copied in the current of the season’s work.  

The work of completion covered the columns of the Chac Mool temple, those of the Warrior’s temple, the dais of the North Colonnade, and the dais of the Northwest Colonnade.   The carved faces of the columns of the Chac Mool temple have been studied in the Year Book report for 1927, but only a few were drawn then.  They were this season copied exhaustively in line drawing with colour notes added in five flat tones, with a view to their easy transposition into lithographs.  Thirteen faces of columns were thus treated, which with the 17 others copied in water colour by Mrs. Morris makes a complete record of the bas-reliefs still in existence in this temple.  

The columns in the Warrior’s Temple had been copied in the season 1926 in line drawing, independent notes on transparent paper having been made of the colour remains on those reliefs.  Such colour notes were transported this season from the transparent sheet to the drawing itself, after having been reduced to the five-tones convention fitted for the lithographic reproduction.  

The most important work of completion was executed on the dais of the North Colonnade.  The two small sides of the dais had been copied in oil in the season 1927.  The front, measuring more than 5 meters in length, was copied this season in oil also and at its natural size.  The two small sides of the dais in the Northwest Colonnade had been copied in 1926.  Owing to the extensive field work done since then and the technical progresses that resulted from it, it seemed advisable to copy those two sides anew, which was done in front of the originals but checking on the first copy all the alterations that had taken place between time. 

The new work done, aside from[2] these works of completion and restoration, comprised mainly those sculptured units that were found out of their original architectural position. 

Two colour plates were done from what could be fitted together of the remnants of the beautiful panel with flowers, birds, and insects as subject matter, found in the filling of the Warrior’s pyramid.  The sculpture in a rather high relief presents unknown flowers on gracefully flowing stems ornated with bud-like leaves.  Different sorts of insects and birds feed on them.  Though much stylized the butterflies are still recognizable, their wings transformed in two flowing panaches of quetzal-like feathers, but the head with its unrolled proboscis retaining many[3] of its zoological characteristics.  Among the birds could be identified some crested parrots and a colibi in its characteristic posture of sucking the flower while flying in[4] place. 

Those sculptures, vividly coloured, stand contrasted on a white background.  A few stones were found which are without doubt part of the same “ensemble” treated only in black and white; as this monochrome treatment was also preparatory to colouring, it could be assumed that much like part of the outside frieze of the Warrior’s temple, this area had been completed all but for its polychromy, then discarded as a result of some architectural modification.  The two copies of this area were done in watercolour.  The fragments of the serpent-columns of the Chac Mool temple uncovered in 1926 comprised two tail pieces and two heads.  The best preserved tail block was copied in colours while of the other a line drawing was made.  Both present, besides[5] the rattles and feathers of the snake proper, panels of three Atlantean figures each, bearing the insignias of shells and turtles.  The most important of the two heads, showing part of the column shaft, was copied also in colour.  Its style is strikingly different from the style of the similar heads in the Warrior’s temple.  Though the subject matter could be considered identical, the treatment, fairly realistic in the latest sculpture, tends in the earlier one towards a more abstract esthetic.  The different parts of the head are described but without destroying the squarish appearance of the  primitive block of stone.  Here is an interesting stylistic link with the Teotihuacan sculpture, at least with the alabaster ocelotl and the giocut[6] goddess of the Mexico City museum.  On those columns the feathers are painted red, while on the fangs of a semispheric shape the red decreases to pink.  The outline of the mouth as well as the scrolls issuing from it are yellow.  Yellow is the belly of the snake, blue the rattles.  A thin ring of blue and yellow encircles the body at about one-third of its height.  Three line drawings were made of fragments of the three friezes running on the outside of the Warrior’s temple, each comprising all the different elements (men holding ceremonial bars, animals) to be found on each band.  This copy brought out a new fact, showing the ingenuity with which the builders used their wide knowledge of perspective.  While on the lower zone, to be seen at a man’s height, the feet of the reclining figures adhere firmly to the immediately lower cornice, a space was left between the feet of the human figures of the middle and top frieze and their corresponding cornice; in the diagonal perspective from down up for which they are intended, this avoids the feet being hidden by the advancing cornice and places them optically as resting directly on it.  So many and so diverse were the successive coats of paint on those elements that a copy of their fragments would be only misleading.  It seems that on the last coat at least, the whole human figure with accessories was painted blue, but for the green belt, the eagle black, the tiger yellow, and the ‘woolly’ black and white to simulate its fur, the whole on a red background.  A copy was also made of the Atlantean charcoal sketch found on the bench-covered area of the south wall of the Chac Mool temple.  This figure proved of special interest as the only remains of the first stage of the sculptor’s work on the stone, previous to carving.  All the notes necessary to write on the bas-reliefs of the Warrior’s temples and part of the text itself were completed.  Also about 200 line drawings were traced to be used as illustrations in the text, independently of the full-page illustrations and colour plates.   

 

 

 



[1] This is a transcription with light editing of the original five-page typescript of “Report of Jean Charlot on the Sculptures of the Temple of the Warriors and the Temple of the Chac Mool,” 1928; in Sylvanus G. Morley: “Archaeology,” Carnegie Institution of Washington Year Book No. 27, July 1, 1927, to June 30, 1928, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington D.C., pp. 287–320: pp. 300–302.  Edited by John Charlot. 

[2] Original: aside. 

[3] Original: much.

[4] Original: on. 

[5] Original: aside. 

[6] Word unknown.  The published version has “heroic sized.”