Drawing From the Past
Maya Antiquity Through the Eyes of Frederick Catherwood

Plate 16, General View of Kabáh

Plate 16, General View of Kabáh

Plate 16, General View of Kabáh
(on stone, by A. Picken)

On January 8, 1841, Catherwood depicted the Maya city of Kabáh in the Yucatán peninsula south of Uxmal. To the left, the white Arch of Kabáh is seen buried in the trees, marking the entrance to the city. The large mound next to it is a pyramid overgrown with vegetation. This scene portrays indigenous workers hauling doorjambs down a sak beh (Maya for "white way”), a road connecting Kabáh to the sites of Uxmal and Nohpat. Overseeing the laborers is a man in a blue shirt who may be John Stephens. In the background are three buildings decorated with Puuc-design, a common Maya architectural style in Kabáh.

Catherwood's motif of light and dark suggests the contrast between the elegance of the distant city and the rigorous labor experienced by the workers in the foreground. The darkness expresses a mood of drudgery, unlike the mystery represented by darkness in other Catherwood lithographs on display, such as plates 4, 5, 17 and 25. Yet the mood of the image is also romantic, as Catherwood emphasizes the spiritual nature of the clouds. [Spanish version].


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