Conquest, Reason, and Cannibalism in a Sixteenth-Century Mexican Manuscript

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The manuscript known as the Relación de Michoacán (1539–41) was commissioned by Spanish viceroy Antonio de Mendoza (1490–1552) and produced in colonial Mexico by an anonymous friar and Indigenous artists and informants. While in many of the manuscript’s paintings, the pre-Columbian rulers (the Uanacaze), are often fasting, one of the paintings—a rare depiction by an Indigenous artist—shows their enemies feasting on human flesh. An analysis of these images reveals how the Indigenous artists transformed European and pre-Columbian models of cannibalism and ritual consumption to represent local concepts connecting food, reason, and conquest while furthering the interests of the Indigenous leaders under colonial rule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-62
Number of pages16
JournalArt Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History


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