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

Plate 2: Pyramidal Bulding and Fragments of Sculpture at Copán

Plate 2, Pyramidal Building and Fragments of Sculpture at Copán

Plate 2, Pyramidal Bulding and Fragments of Sculpture at Copán
(on stone, by H. Warren)

In the jungles of Copán we still find ancient Maya ruins overcome by nature and long forgotten. Stephens and Catherwood rediscovered this abandoned city and documented their experiences. Since Catherwood worked under a time limit documenting these new discoveries, he did various sketches and watercolors using a camera lucida (similar to a magnifying glass), which helped him draw the intricate designs he saw on Maya buildings and sculpture. Catherwood first sketched everything, and then sent the sketches to London to be published for Incidents of Travel. Six years later, after the success of the book, he decided to make a set of twenty five prints from his expedition by reworking his previous sketches and drawing new compositions from memory. For instance this print shows a collection of sculpture found nearby, but not originally located in front of the pyramid (these individual sculptures can be found as etchings in Incidents of Travel).

Catherwood, along with six of the best printers in London, used lithography to create his editions. Lithography, a relatively new technology at this time, allowed for the creation of large editions. Most lithographs are created by an artist drawing directly onto a block of limestone. The stone is inked in sepia after each impression. Catherwood then hand-painted fifty sets with the colors seen in each print. Catherwood printed an edition of 300 copies of each plate. This gives evidence that his work was very popular, providing him with enough financial support to complete his whole series. [Spanish version].


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