General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 1 Mar 2021/6 Grass
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Triple-layer Aztec mask

Mellow Yellow

Many children in England studying the Aztecs will have come across ‘cheap-and-cheerful’ copies of this famous ‘figure with three faces’. But you may well be unaware of the meaning of the colours originally used to paint it...

The ‘figure with three faces’: illustration by Phillip Mursell
The ‘figure with three faces’: illustration by Phillip Mursell (Click on image to enlarge)

The original clay figure - unique in the world - is believed to be from the pre-Aztec Teotihuacan culture, and is held by the UNAM (National University) in Mexico City. It still bears traces of the original paint, and the colours are important: the fresh good health of youth (central face) was painted deep red, the maturity of middle age was represented in yellow (second layer), and death was depicted in white. The figure came to London in the major exhibition at the Royal Academy (2002-03).

This is one of several classic images that teachers can download from the site of the Guggenheim Museum Arts Curriculum Online

Guggenheim Arts Curriculum Online (Aztec Empire)
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