Lienzo de la Gran Chinantla, [between 1550 and 1599].

Manuscript, Book
Mayan languages
1 item : cloth ; 1280 x 1380 mm


Getty AAT genre
Contained in
Robert Garrett collection, ca. 1340 B.C.-1900s.
[between 1550 and 1599].
Sheet of woven cloth (cotton?). There are also 44 small slips of paper sewn on to the cloth. The now faded colors used on the lienzo are pale green (used in connection with rivers and the shading of mountains), red (the walls of the houses), yellow (the thatched roofs of the houses), and the black used for most of the drawings and outlines. Sewn on the lienzo are 44 small slips of paper. These bear glosses that identify place names and geographical features. The slips are several types of paper, of different ages, and bear several different handwritings. The threads used exhibit a similar variety. Probably none of the slips is of 16th-century origin and some are probably 19th century in origin. The toponymic information that they convey cannot be used to date the painting.
Linking notes
Forms part of the Robert Garrett Collection (C0744).
Summary note
The lienzo is a map of the region near the modern San Juan Bautista Valle Nacional in the Chinantec region of northern Oaxaca, Mexico. Shown on the map are several rivers, 37 native houses with thatch roofs, and surrounding mountains. Most of the houses are in pairs; within the doorway of one house is a Christian cross (representing the Church) and an Indian seated on a stool with a vertical back (representing the "tecpan" or government house) is depicted within the doorway of the other. At the center are three larger houses. The largest of these is identified by a sewn-on glossed slip of paper as Santa Maria la Natividad Chinantla Grande, the probable provenance of this native document. Near these central houses are several groups of Indians seated on small stools. Two of the Indians are identified by gloss number 5 (see below) Encircling three sides of the central part of the composition and extending across much of the lienzo is a long line of Indians, most of whom face in the same direction. At the beginning of the line only the heads of the Indians are shown. Toward the end of the line the Indians are shown seated on small stools and dressed in native costume. Most of the Indians in this line are men but the final figure is a woman. The next to the last figure is a man dressed in a black costume and hat. Some of the outlines of the figures have been strengthened with a very black ink and the black hats worn by the man mentioned above and by another near the center may be later additions. Other titles: Mapa de la Gran Chinantla, Añp de 1521; Mapa de la Gran Chinantla.
Slightly below and also underneath the seated figures toward the end of the long curved line of Indians the bleached-out remains of an earlier painting is evident. This palimpsest was a continuation of the row of heads at the beginning of the line. The bleach used to eradicate the earlier heads has also affected the later seated figures. Since the added figures are clearly in the style of Mexican Indian manuscript painting of the 16th century, they are probably nearly contemporary with the original composition. Elsewhere on the painting other slightly bleached or faded areas are visible but without evidence of palimpsests; in some cases this effect appears to be associated with the red coloring. Only four hieroglyphic elements are present and none of these are personal name glyphs or calendrical dates. The glyphs present are rebus signs used to identify place names. A turtle ("Ayotl" in Nahuatl) is drawn above the house bearing gloss number 32, "San Pedro Ayosintepeque". Above the house with gloss number 35 is a "Nopal" cactus; this clearly refers, however, to the house with gloss number 36, "Santa Maria Nra. Señora de Rosario Nopalen". This discrepancy between the location of the artist's place sign and the glossed identification indicates that the identifications made by the glosses may be inaccurate in some instances. To the side of the mountain with gloss 39 is a deer's head ("Mazatl" in Nahuatl) but the mountain is identified as "El Rio Cabra" (Spanish for River of the Goat). At the head of the river identified a "Rio de Pajarito" (River of the Little Bird) by gloss number 38 is the drawing of a bird. It may be noted that a number of the mountains on two sides of the lienzo are represented by the conventionalized "tepetl" or hill sign, a frequent element in rebus place glyphs.
Language note
Text in Nahuatl with some Spanish.
In 1946 or 1947 Howard Cline spoke to Mariano Espinosa concerning the lienzo. Espinosa told him that it was owned by him until 1916 when it was stolen from him in a hotel in Veracruz during events of the Mexican revolution (Cline, 1961a: 57, Cline, 1961b: 196). Robert Garrett ostensibly acquired the lienzo from C. C. James in Mexico in October of 1931. It was lent to the Walters Art Gallery in 1939 and was given to Princeton University Library by Garrett in 1949. There is a tag that reads "Lienzos (3) from C. C. James, Mexico, Oct. 1931." and on verso "1 Lienzo (forgery) in envelope (gates) 3 Lienzos (1 on deerskin, 2 on linen) belonging to Mr. Robert Garrett. Jany. 5, 1939." and also "Return to Mr. Garrett Jan. 18, 194? [partially broken off and illegible]. Another label that reads "Walters Art Gallery loan 7-8-1939." Part of the tag has broken off and is missing. Part of that tag reads "Returned to Mr. Garrett Jan. 18, 1945. M. #5, 1934."
Source acquisition
Gift Robert Garrett, 1949.
Publications about
The two studies by Howard F. Cline (1961a; 1961b) each contain a study of the lienzo and a reproduction of the Mariano Espinosa photograph. The more specific study (Cline, 1961b) contains more detail and illustrations. Espinosa's "Apuntes" (1910), which first reproduced the original, has been republished with an introduction by Cline (Espinosa, 1961).
Cite as
Garrett Mesoamerican Manuscripts, no. 20, Manuscripts Division, Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
Other title(s)
Mapa de la Gran Chinantla, Añp de 1521
  • Robert Garrett Collection, ca. 1340 B.C.-1900s
  • Robert Garrett Collection
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