Date of this Version
Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii
The historical documentation of the use of textiles during the Aztec empire as tribute offerings and sumptuary laws indicates the elevated role of textiles at the time. Yet, further research is warranted on the artistry of these textiles. This is difficult because the climate of central Mexico is not conducive to preserving fiber materials; fortunately, the rich manuscripts of this region preserve many images of textiles created during the Aztec empire. Early colonial manuscripts, many of which are copies of pre-conquest manuscripts no longer extant, preserve images of textiles from the pre-conquest period. These manuscripts provide invaluable information regarding the regional variations, creation technologies and costume elements for textiles.
This paper explores images and texts of two groups of textiles: textiles with diagonal bifurcations, and jaguar related textiles found in the Codex Mendoza, the Matrícula de Tributos, the Codex Magliabechiano and the Florentine Codex. These textile groups provide insights into the naming practices, materials and status given to textiles in central Mexico at the time of the Aztec Empire.
According to the Florentine Codex, “for the fifth one whom he captured, then he gained great honor … Then Moctezuma gave him a long blue labret and a head band with [two] tufts of [eagle] feathers, perchance with silver flint knives [between the eagle feathers], and leather ear plugs, and a bright red, rich, netting cape. And also he was then given a cape of two colors divided diagonally, and a leather cape.” The Nahuatl text identifies this textile as chicoapalnacazminqui. The image accompanying this text depicts a textile diagonally bifurcated, with two solid color blocks. An illustration from the Codex Magliabechiano is nearly identical to the Florentine Codex image, however, the gloss is given in Spanish as the “Mantle of Dead nose.”
While the Florentine text describes this textile as a gift to a warrior after capturing five enemies, the ethnographic section of the Codex Mendoza (folio 64r) differs slightly from this description by illustrating a warrior who has captured four enemies alongside an image of a textile. The gloss does not identify the textile’s design as nacazminqui, rather it merely states that “This warrior [receives] the style of warrior costume he is wearing and this square manta of two stripes of black and orange with its border in honor of having captured four enemies in battle."