The Cities of the Gods


‘The City of the Gods’ aims at documenting this very special human adventure, offering us a visual itinerary of an unusual and fascinating kind through ten cultures, amongst others, which made the greatest mark on the history of this part of the New World. The City – in which the gods offered hospitality even to men, the City – in which the gods are made and over which they rule. The itinerary of the exhibition is not merely a ‘cultural’ journey but a real passage through the most profound suggestions. At the entrance to the exhibition, in the first room, one encounters the OLMEC culture, ‘the mother culture’, the culture which, in one sense, represents the forge and the reference point for all the other cultures of Central America. The symbolic element par excel-lence is the cast of a gigantic ‘Cabeza’, (two meters tall), representing one of the Ancestors, the father fi-gures of that great culture. From the swamps of San Lorenzo and Tabasco, the place of origin, we climb to the high plain, in the Valley of Mexico, a great valley which has been the cradle of extraordinary cultures; we find ourselves thus in the classical period and en-counter, in the second room, the first great metropolis of Central America, which reached its splendour around 600 A.D.: TEOTIHUACAN, literally ‘the pla-ce where the gods are made’. Its pyramids and its Way of the Dead made of it a place of myth even for the Pre-Colombian civilizations which followed. Teotihuacan was not just a city but the centre of a va-st tributary empire which dominated a large part of Mexico up to the limits of the Maya and Oaxaca zo-nes. Among the objects which stand out is the magni-ficent brazier typical of what was produced in Teotihuacan in that period. In the TOLTEC room, the third, we meet the civilization which raised the famous city of Tula whose splendid remains still fill us with wonder. How could one not be amazed at the sight of the temple of Quet-zalcoatl, the plumed serpent, on the platform of which tower the magnificent Atlantes? Proof of it is in the reproduction in the actual proportions of one of these massive warriors dominating the room. In the fourth room, we encounter the most noted cul-ture, (even if, in reality, it is still to be understood), the MEXICA, or as they were called by the Spanish, the AZTECS. The Mexica were a warrior people, the la-st to arrive in the Valley of Mexico and who built an empire to which a large number of peoples paid tribu-te. The capital, on which Mexico City has risen, the splendid Tenochtitlan, was truly ‘majestic’; its heart was represented by the Templo Mayor, (the splendid ruins of which can still be seen in Mexico City), dedi-cated to the god of war Huitzilopochtli and the god of rain Tlaloc. A large part of the objects on show in the fourth room come, in fact, from the excavation of Templo Mayor conducted by the scientific curator of the exhibition Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. In this set-ting we come upon the extraordinary reproduction, in actual size, of the gigantic Moonstone which embodies one the principal Mexican myths: the struggle of the god of war Huitzilopochtli against his sister Coyolxauhqui. Passing through the ‘treasure’ room, we enter the fifth room dedicated to the civilization of the Gulf: the TOTONACS and the HUAXTECS, the first gifted with great cultural refinement and the authors of very elegant styles of architecture, the second able to pro-vide the very basis of that religion which the Toltecs were to disseminate. They lived in a world filled with ritual: one is reminded, above all, of the famous game of pelota. Amongst those objects present the ritual yoke appears as particularly characteristic. In the sixth room we move south into the forests of the Yucatan, where the MAYA civilization flourished, in particular from the classical to the post-classical pe-riod. The cultural and artistic evolution of the Maya was extremely rich. Technologically evolved, but equally so in astronomy and mathematics, the Maya governed cities of a complex social order and which, from time to time, were able to rise supreme, one above the other. Set against the variety of styles which succeeded each other in the arts is a constancy in its religious and cosmic vision. Amongst the splendid objects on display in this room, one should note a very beautiful atlas and, as part of the visual display, an accurate reproduction in blown-up transparencies of a typical Mayan stele. From the ZAPOTEC and the MIXTEC cultures, who occupied, in successive periods, the area of Oaxaca, (in particular Monte Alban), come the excellent contribution of objects and reconstructions which are to be admired in the seventh room, in particular, the recon-struction of the tomb of an illustrious Zapotec from Monte Alban, completely done out with frescoes. Finally, in the eighth and last room, is allocated space for the still as yet little known culture of the WEST, which, together with the TARASCI, reached a parti-cularly high degree of excellence in craftsmanship and the working of metals. Accompanying the whole itinerary are explanatory panels laid out so as to be read at different levels: the first, by way of brief ‘captions’, gives the essential information needed for locating the culture and pe-riod; the second ‘iconographically’, offers a series of images and drawings; the third, an ‘in depth’ study, offers the visitor the possibility of following each cultu-re under fundamental headings like ‘archaeological research’, ‘pre-history’ and ‘the site’, ‘society’, ‘eco-nomy’, ‘politics’, ‘religion’ and ‘art’. In the end, how can one not be astonished by the casts and the re-constructions of the most suggestive monuments, such as the atlas already mentioned the Olmec ‘cabeza’, the grandiose Way of the Dead, the splendid and faithfully represented Tomb 104 and the great stone of Coyolxauhqui.’


22 Agosto 1992 - 29 Agosto 1992


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions