CATHERWOOD, Frederick (1799-1854)
General view of Las Monjas at Uxmal
[Plate 8] London: Published by Vizetely Brothers & Co., 1844. Tinted lithograph. Sheet size: 14 3/8 x 21 1/8 inches.
This beautiful and rare lithograph is one of the first and primary visual records of the rediscovery of Mayan civilization.
"In the whole range of literature on the Maya there has never appeared a more magnificent work" Von Hagen.
Frederick Catherwood was a British architect and artist with a strong interest in archaeology. These combined talents led him to accompany the American traveler and explorer, John Lloyd Stephens, on two trips to the Mayan region of southern Mexico in 1839 and 1841. These explorations resulted in Stephens' two famous works, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. These immensely popular works, foundation stones in Mayan studies, were both illustrated by Catherwood and inspired him to undertake the series of larger lithographs. The Views.. was produced in London, where Catherwood recruited Andrew Picken to translate his originals onto stone. Three hundred copies were produced.
"Catherwood belongs to a species, the artist-archaeologist, which is all but extinct. Piranesi was the most celebrated specimen and Catherwood his not unworthy successor" (Aldous Huxley).
Las Monjas (the nunnery) at Uxmal was named by the Spanish, who were reminded by the layout and care to detail of Spanish cloisters. It may have been a Mayan place of worship,possibly a cemetery. It is comprised of a quadrangle, perfectly proportioned, and embellished with sculpted friezes rich in Mayan religious imagery. Uxmal, an ancient Mayan city, in present-day Yucatan, Mexico is in the town of Santa Elena.
Sabin 11520; Tooley 133 (gives a list of the plates); Von Hagen, Frederick Catherwood (1950), pp.91-95; Palau 50290; Groce & Wallace, p.115; Hill, p.47.