Untitled (Tav. 1; Pyramid at El Tajín)

Description: 

The pyramid at El Tajín is shown in three-quarter view. It is a step-pyramid with six levels and a staircase leading from the ground to the top platform. The sky is blank over a completely flat horizon. The ground is represented by a continuous series of receding vertical lines.

Accession Number: 

G95 D85 Cutter

Height (in centimeters): 

11

Width (in centimeters): 

16

Printing Context: 

This illustration is one of four untitled plates reproduced in Due Antichi Monumenti di Architettura Messicana (1804), by Pedro José Marquez. Each plate presents a view of a structure at El Tajín or Xochicalco.

Associated Events: 

Suppression of the Jesuits


On June 25, 1767, Pope Clement XIV issued a decree suppressing the Jesuits from practicing in the Catholic Church. The order was largely ignored in non-Catholic countries, but taken quite seriously in loyal Catholic nations, particularly the Spanish Empire. As a result, all Jesuits in New Spain, the Viceroyalty of Peru, Spain, France, Portugal, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were suppressed. The reasons for the suppression are a matter of debate, but it is generally agreed that it originated not in theological dispute but in political conflict, specifically the conflict arising between older trade routes and means of knowledge production—historically dominated by Jesuits—and emerging secular, Enlightenment-era nation-states. For Pedro José Marquez, the ironic result was that he was forced to flee Mexico to Rome, where he was then able to publish his re-interpretations of Alzate’s work (exposing his own writing to European audiences for the first time).

Associated People: 

Pedro José Marquez (1741-1820)


Pedro José Marquez was born in San Francisco del Rincón, Guanajuato, New Spain on February 22, 1741. Following a university education, he entered the Jesuit order in Mexico in 1763. Marquez was teaching Latin in the College of Espiritu Santo in Puebla de los Angeles (modern Puebla, Puebla, Mexico) when his Jesuit order was expelled from Mexico in 1767. Marquez went to Italy, where he shifted his scholarly interests to architecture and fine arts. He is currently best known for the series of books he published while in Rome: Delle Case di Citta Degli Antichi Romani Secondo la Dottrina di Vitruvio (On the Houses of the Ancient Roman Cities in the Opinion of Vitruvius’ Doctrine; Rome, 1795); Delle Ville di Plinio il Giovane con un Appendice sugli Atri Della S. Scrittura e gli Scamilli impari di Vitruvio (On the House of Plinio il Giovane, with an Appendiex on the Entrance Hall of the Santa Scrittura and the Scamilli given by Vitruvius; Rome, 1796); and most notably Due Antichi Monumenti di Architectura Messicana (Two Ancient Monuments of Mexican Architecture; Rome, 1804). Due antichi Monumenti was the first book on Mexican archaeology to be published in Europe, thus opening the doors for future archaeological expeditions to the region, particularly following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. While in Europe, Marquez was made a member of a number of teaching academies, notably those in Madrid, Bologna, Florence, and Saragossa. In 1814, Marquez returned to New Spain, where he took a teaching position in the Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City. Marquez died in Mexico City on September 2, 1820.


José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez (1737-1799)


José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez was born in Ozumba, New Spain (modern Ozumba, State of Mexico, Mexico) on November 21, 1737. Alzate received a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Colegio de San Idelfonso in Mexico City in 1756, and entered the Catholic priesthood the following year. An author of more than thirty books and treatises, Alzate was a prolific writer on astronomy, meteorology, physics, metallurgy, and antiquities. In 1788, Alzate began publishing the periodical Gacetas de Literatura, and in 1791 used the magazine to publish the first systematic study of any Mexican architectural site: a discussion of the ruins of Xochicalco and El Tajín. Alzate was the first to argue that such monuments represented the sophistication and technological advancement of the civilizations of ancient Mexico. Alzate’s conclusions were later taken up by Pedro José Marquez, who used his Due Antichi Monumenti di Architectura Messicana to present Alzate’s findings to a European audience for the first time. Alzate died in Mexico City on February 2, 1799.

Associated Places: 

El Tajín


El Tajín is the largest and best-preserved city of the Classic Veracruz civilization in what is now Mexico. The modern-day archaeological site of El Tajín is located about 150 miles north of Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico. Construction at El Tajín began around the first century CE, and reached its height 600-900 CE. It was completely abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. In New Spain, the site was first described in detail by José Antonio Alzate in 1791; his findings were later re-published in Europe by Pedro Marquez in Rome (1804). The Pyramid of the Niches, the largest structure at El Tajín, was the focus of a number of travel accounts and archaeological illustrations during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, most notably in Marquez's Due antichi monumenti di architettura messicana (1804) and in Alexander von Humboldt's Vues des Cordillères: et monumens des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique (1816). The site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Associated Texts: 

Marquez’s Untitled (Pyramid at El Tajín) is based directly off of José Antonio Alzate’s illustration of the same pyramid, originally published in the magazine Gacetas de literatura in 1791.

Subject: 

Pedro Marquez' s 1804 book contains the first scientific illustrations of Mexican archaeology to be produced in Europe. By depicting the Pyramid at El Tajin with sharp, clean angles and a lack of geographic context, Marquez sought to visually tie it to Greek and Roman temples, thus showing the technological advancement and social sophistication of native Mexican peoples.

Significance: 

This illustration, along with the others in Marquez’s book, were the first published images of Mexican archaeology to be produced in Europe (Keen 300). Consequently, Marquez’s illustrations are the progenitors of European interest in Mexican archaeology, from which stems the increased interest in Mexican travel during the Romantic period after Mexican independence (circa 1821-1850). It is important to note that this image, with its total lack of concern for surrounding landscape, larger geographic context, or cultural specificity, was published in Europe at precisely the same time Alexander von Humboldt was in Mexico drawing his Pyramide de Cholula for publication in Vues des Cordillères: et monumens des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique (1810). Marquez, recently expelled from Mexico, made it a personal goal to show the technological advancement and social sophistication of native Mexican peoples (of which he was one); the subtle connection he draws between El Tajín and Greek or Roman temples may push toward such a reading. In any event, the tension between Marquez’s representational style and Humboldt’s marriage of enlightenment science with Romantic depictions of landscape would continue to inform visual representations of Mexican sites throughout the early nineteenth century.

Function: 

Marquez produced this image, and the others in Due Antichi Monumenti di Architettura Messicana, with the express purpose of showing European audiences the technological advancement and social sophistication of native Mexican civilizations. This was the first image of a Mexican archaeological site to be published in Europe (Keen 300).

Bibliography: 

Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge. How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2001. Print. Cultural Sitings.


Herbermann, Charles G., et al, ed. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Encyclopedia P, 1913. Print.


Humboldt, Alexander von. Vues Des Cordillères: Et Monumens Des Peuples Indigènes De L'amérique. 2 vols. Paris, 1816. Print.


Humboldt, Alexander von, et al. Vistas De Las Cordilleras Y Monumentos De Los Pueblos Indígenas De América. 2 vols. México, D.F.: Smurfit Cartón y Papel, 1995. Print. Hombre y sus obras. Biblioteca Humboldt.


Keen, Benjamin. The Aztec Image in Western Thought. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1971. Print.


Marquez, Pedro. Due Antichi Monumenti Di Architettura Messicana. Roma: Presso il Salomoni, 1804. Print.


Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske, ed. Appleton's Cyclopædia of America Biography. Vol. 4. New York: Appleton, 1888. Print.

Long Title: 

Due antichi Monumenti di Architectura Messicana