Diego Rivera's Illustrated Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh is one of the most important stories ever created by the Quiche Maya people. It contains epic tales of the Hero Twins, early migrations and settlements, the creation of the world and even the creation of Man itself. It is also one of the last Maya books still in existence after the Spanish Conquest and the rein of Friar De Landa. The book was and still is of vital importance to Mexican culture and heritage and continues to influence those of future generations.

Diego Rivera was one of the most decorated and recognized artist in the world in the 20th century. He was introduced to the Popol Vuh in the early 1930's by a man named John Weatherwax who read the book to Rivera in hopes of inspiring a new collection of paintings. Rivera reviewed the book and handpicked specific passages of text that would be best for conveying the absolute most imagery using a watercolor technique while also staying true to classic Maya style paintings. Rivera created a total of 24 watercolor paintings for his Popol Vuh collection which can be seen at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Mexico.

The classic Maya paintings that influenced Rivera used bright coloration, intense imagery, and still life figures to tell an epic tale whether it be depicting the Gods, honoring their King, or even creating their own illustration of known stories based on the religion. Rivera brought these features into his collection to give a sense of authentication to his interpretation of the tales from the Popul Vuh. Diego attempted and succeeded in delivering powerful imagery of the sacred text for the world to appreciate and gain a better understanding of Maya history and culture.

Images

The Palacio de Bella Artes

The Palacio de Bella Artes

The Palacio de Bellas Artes is located in the historic center of Mexico City, Mexico. Built in the late 19th century, the Palacio houses important exhibits of all types of art including paintings, sculptures, music, and dance. Although the building houses many types of fine art, it is most notable for being the home of many pieces done by Diego River and even Pablo Picasso. | Source: “Bellas Artes.” DeviantArt, laloxxx.deviantart.com/art/Bellas-Artes-198898748. View File Details Page

The Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh was originally written sometime between 1554 and 1558 by an unknown Maya author or authors and translated into English in the 18th century by a priest. The tales included in the Popol Vuh were common among the Quiche Maya which were located in modern day Guatemala. | Source: “'De Que Trata El Popol Vuhz” El Toloc, www.eltolocyucateco.com.mx/Yucateco/tema.phpztema=culma&id=7. View File Details Page

Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico on December 8, 1886. At around 10 years old, he attended the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts to further study his growing passion. Rivera traveled to Europe in 1907 to better his studies and befriends fellow artist Pablo Picasso (who can also be seen at the Palacio de Bellas Artes). After work on the Popol Vuh collection, Rivera produced a series of murals called "From the Pre-Hispanic Civilization to the Conquest" which can be found in Mexico City, Mexico. | Source: “Diego Rivera Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist-rivera-diego.htm. View File Details Page

The Hero Twin's by Diego Rivera

The Hero Twin's by Diego Rivera

This illustration is a part of Rivera's Popol Vuh collection which depicts the Hero Twin's trial through the Underworld. Rivera made a point to include tradition Maya characteristics including the slopped cranium, tradition dress, and ear plugs which can be seen along with the use of bright coloration that is commonly used in classic Maya paintings. | Source: “Diego Rivera's Watercolors Breathe Life into Maya Origin Story at the Bowers Museum.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-diego-rivera-bowers-20151206-story.html. View File Details Page

The Hero Twin's by Unknown

The Hero Twin's by Unknown

This illustration was completed by an unknown Maya citizen depicting the Hero Twin's. Like River's watercolor painting, slopped craniums, traditional dress, and ear plugs can be seen along with bright coloration. This image is a comparison to Rivera's attempt to create a Maya inspired collection. | Source: Dr. Antonio Rafael de la Cova. The Maya Hero Twins, www.latinamericanstudies.org/hero-twins.htm. View File Details Page

Street Address:

Av. Juárez, Centro Histórico, 06050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico [map]

Cite this Page:

Christina Wicker, “Diego Rivera's Illustrated Popol Vuh,” HistoricalMX, accessed November 24, 2017, http://historicalmx.org/items/show/101.

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