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

Plate 3, Back of an Idol at Copán

Plate 3, Back of an Idol at Copán

Plate 3, Back of an Idol at Copán
(on stone, by H. Warren)

The city of Copán is home to some of the most artistically complex stelas created by ancient Maya people. These objects bear intricate high- and low-relief carvings that span their entire surfaces. The images are accompanied by hieroglyphs that tell the history of the kings and deities that they honor. This particular statue (Stele F) is carved in low relief and bordered in quetzal feathers; the detailed depiction has been noted by scholars for its accuracy.

According to today’s archaeologists, Catherwood did not use artistic license to create false detail. Catherwood certainly used his artistic abilities to depict a sense of mystery in showing the stele half-shadowed and hidden among the jungle trees. Yet he also chose to depict the glyphs as detailed and as accurately as possible. This is not only a testament to his skill, it also suggests his reverence for Maya craftsmanship. [Spanish version].


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