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

Plate 4: Broken Idol at Copán

Plate 4, Broken Idol at Copán

Plate 4, Broken Idol at Copán
(on stone, by H. Warren)

Lying in a reflective pool of water in front of a tumultuous background, a broken sculpture is dramatically lit. The serenity of the idol’s expression and the seeming permanence of the stone structures contrast poignantly with the harsh surroundings.

The mood thus created shows that the Romantic style (1830-1870) influenced Catherwood. Emotion and dramatic coloring are typical of this period. Similarly La Jeune Martyre (The Young Martyr) by Paul Delaroche (1855) presents a peaceful figure; a victim of her surroundings, caught in a storm, she seems to endure with resolve. This same feeling is reflected in Catherwood’s depiction of the broken stele.

Catherwood studied architecture at the Royal Academy in London; he also traveled to Rome, Greece, and Egypt illustrating ruins that were well-known to the Western world. Stephens claimed that “It [the stele] is equal to the best remains of Egyptian art.” When rediscovered by Stephens and Catherwood, these treasured remains had been damaged and hidden by the jungle, providing a powerful parallel to the once vibrant ancient Maya. [Spanish version].


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