Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Teotihuacan: Mural Painting

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Teotihuacan's murals constitute a primary source for understanding the city's religion and social organization. Found throughout the city on the walls of apartment compounds such as Tetitla, the paintings depict a wide range of images centered around two major deities: a female known as the Great Goddess and a male known as the Storm God (or Tlaloc). The Great Goddess is usually depicted frontally, with additional motifs pertaining to agricultural fertility. The Storm God is usually shown in profile and is identified by his distinctive face mask and the lightning bolt carried in his left hand. Animals, including coyotes, owls, and jaguars, are also prominent in the murals. The paintings were laid down quickly on thinly plastered walls. Red dominates the color scheme, although blues, yellows, and greens appear. The style is flat and linear, and the primary deities often appear in abbreviated versions. The abundance of smaller motifs may have constituted a pictorial notational system, but Teotihuacan is remarkable for its apparent lack of a writing system comparable to that seen in the Maya realm or at Monte Albán.



Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Teotihuacan: Tetitla (Portico 11, Mural 3), Great Goddess (detail), painted stucco; H. 43 1/4 in. (110 cm).

Vibrantly colored images of the Great Goddess were repeated around the sloping interior base walls, or taluds, of many Teotihuacan apartment buildings.
Teotihuacan: Tetitla (Corridor 25, Mural 7), Eagle, painted stucco; H. 41 3/4 in. (106 cm).

The birds in the Tetitla murals have been variously identified as quetzals, owls, or eagles.
Teotihuacan: Palace of the Jaguars (Portico 1, Mural 1), Crouching jaguar, painted stucco; H. 32 1/4 in. (82 cm)

This anthropomorphic jaguar holds a plumed conch shell in its outstretched left paw.

Site plan of Tetitla.