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Codex Durán

Codex Duran

Codex Durán Diego Durán, Historia de las Indias de Nueva España y Yslas de TIerra Firme, c.1579-81. Paper, 30x21 cm. Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid.

Perhaps the most important of a series of chronicles written by or associated with the Dominican friar Diego de Durán (1537-1588), this extensive illustrated manuscript details pre-Hispanic religious rites, the workings of the native calendar, a history of Tenochtitlan, and the Spanish conquest, as drawn from native sources. Although in places heavily influenced by European art forms, the accompanying images are probably the work of several native hands.
The illustration on the left hand page here depicts the great comet, the first of eight omens that supposedly announced the Spanish invasion and the fall of Tenochtitlan. Comets were understood to be omens of sickness, death, famine and war...
Most scholars now agree that the omens were a post-conquest invention, used to explain the unexplainable... Others refer to native conventions of reconstructing history on the basis of cosmic principles, through which the events of the conquest came to be portrayed as a series of cosmic disasters.


Adapted from ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 237.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore