Turquoise Diadems and Staffs of Office: Elite Costume and Insignia of Power in Aztec and Early Colonial Mexico

by Justyna Olko

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This work is an extensive iconographic and historical analysis of over 100 sources, largely unpublished and / or unanalyzed so far. These include Spanish Aztec sculptures, 16th-century pictographic manuscripts, and written sources, especially Nahuatl texts. The subject matter focuses on the repertoire of insignia and attributes of power (including elite attire) of pre-Hispanic and early colonial indigenous elites from central Mexico, mainly Nahua Indian groups. Particular emphasis was placed on the analysis of regional conventions in the iconography of power, both before the Spanish conquest and in the early colonial period. An important issue discussed in the dissertation are also indigenous strategies for the continuation of pre-Hispanic elements and adaptation of Spanish influences, especially the role of symbols of power in the new political order. Finally, the work deals with the problem of the attributes of power in the context of the construction of the identity of the colonial elite and the relationship between the clothes “presented” and actually worn in the 16th century.

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