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Mark Van Stone

Identifying Individual Hands in the Monuments of K’inich Ahkal Mo’ Naab of Palenque
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Research Year:  2000
Culture:  Maya
Chronology:  Late Classic
Location:  México, Guatemala, and Honduras
Sites:  Palenque, Tikal, Waxactun, and Copán

Table of Contents

Introduction and Acknowledgements
The Idea
Temple XIX Stuccos
Stone Inscription Sculptors
Temple XIX Platform
Temple XIX Limestone Panel
Palace Tablet
A Parting Question
List of Figures
Sources Cited

Figure 8. Palenque Temple XIX Stucco Panel.

Introduction and Acknowledgements

A few researchers have attempted to identify the hands of individual Maya artists. For instance, Spinden in 1913 and Proskouriakoff in 1950, while classifying types and trends in Maya art, mention in passing the likelihood that, for example, some monuments of strikingly similar sculptural style standing in the Copán Plaza were likely sculpted by the same hand (Spinden, Herbert, A Study of Maya Art, Its Subject Matter and Historical Development. From the series Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. VI. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1913; and Proskouriakoff, Tatiana, A Study of Classic Maya Sculpture. Carnegie Institute Publication No. 558, Washington, DC, 1950). Günter Zimmermann in 1953 identified eight scribes at work in the Dresden Codex (Figure 1).

Cohodas identified hands of individual Yaxchilán artists in 1972 and, with his students in 1984 attributed the paintings on several score ’Codex Style’ vases to perhaps a single workshop containing only six master artists (Cohodas, Marvin, "Transformations: Relationships Between Image and Text in the Ceramic Paintings of the Metropolitan Master," in William Hanks, ed., Text and Image in Ancient Mesoamerican Art, Oxford, 1984).

In 1988 Barbara and Justin Kerr pioneered a Morellian analysis of various hands in Codex-style vases ("Some Observations on Maya Vase Painters," pp. 236-259 in Maya Iconography. Elizabeth P. Benson and Gillett G. Griffin, eds., Princeton University Press).

In 1992, Carolyn Tate, using Morellian connoisseurship methodology, not only identified a dozen or so individual sculptors working at Yaxchilán, but distinguished on these reliefs between the work of carvers and of the scribes who laid them out. Beginning with Yaxchilán Stela 12, she showed that in ambitious productions such as stelae and lintel-sets, that it was the rule, rather than the exception, for several expert artists to work together (Tate, Carolyn E., Yaxchilán, The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City, Austin, 1992, pp. 38ff.). More recently, David Stuart and John Montgomery have looked at artist’s signatures, especially in Usumacinta region sites such as Piedras Negras. A surprising number of these monuments bear multiple signatures, sometimes as many as eight or ten (Figure 2).

It has been the aim of this research project to follow a similar course of inquiry in Palenque, focusing on the monuments of Palenque’s K’an Hok’ Chitam and Ahkal Mo’ Naab (ca. A.D. 715-745). In a forthcoming paper, I submit the Early Classic monuments of Tikal to a like analysis.

I am grateful for generous sponsorship and financial support from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI) and others. I am especially indebted to the crucial and enthusiastic personal sponsorship of Alfonso Morales in Palenque and of Sofia Paredes, former Acting Directora of the Instituto de Anthropología e Historia in Guatemala City. At more fundamental levels, Norberto Tesucun at the Museo Sylvanus Morley and Don Florentino in the bodega of the Museo Nacional in Guatemala City cheerfully accompanied me for the duration of my study, and tirelessly fetched scores of priceless objects in their charge. This assistance allowed me to take some 5,000 detail photographs of inscriptions, comprising nearly every surviving glyph and relief fragment within my purview. These photographs, most for the first time, reveal subtle details of carving technique and personal idiosyncrasies of style which define the personality of an artist’s handwriting.

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Submitted 11/06/2001 by:

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