- Colors Between Two Worlds: The Florentine Codex of Bernardino de Sahagún ed. by Gerhard Wolf and Joseph Connors
Colors Between Two Worlds: The Florentine Codex of Bernardino de Sahagún, edited by Ghard Wolf and Joseph Connors in collaboration with Louis A. Waldman, is a collection of essays resulting from a 2008 conference that strove to analyze the Codex in innovative manners and greater depth than ever before. The emergent theme of the conference was “the materiality of color,” and from this was born this edited collection of essays. Each chapter is a close reading or analysis of a particular aspect of the Codex; each scholar contributing to this collection purposely reread and rediscovered the text, the images, the structures, [End Page 246] and the context of the Codex through the theme of color and image in a completely innovative and landmark manner. The book is also organized somewhat chronologically, beginning with the context of its production, moving to the materials and methods of its production, its reception and context in Europe and then back to the New World for a comparison with texts from other locations. This book accomplishes the goal of rediscovering and reanalyzing the Florentine Codex through color phenomenally.
In “The colors of the Virgin of Guadalupe” by Clara Bargellini, the iconic image of the Virgin is analyzed and related to the Codex “within the same Indochristian cultural context.” Bargellini compares the public stories of the painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe with that of the Codex. Most importantly, Bargellini explains how the role of indigenous painters was quickly diminished in a hostile atmosphere where there were strong implications that works attributed to or receiving contributions from an “indio” were not sacred and could not be “miracle working.” The history of the painting of the Virgin and how it became a relic are established in order to explain the reasons why this image survived in this environment when so many others did not; Bargellini compares its fate with that of the Codex, which, in order to survive, had to be “spirited away to Europe.”
“Mediceo Palatino 218–220 of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana of Florence,” by Ida Giovanna Rao, is an extremely detailed description of the manuscript’s structure both internally and externally, including its foliation, collations, layout, and decorations. “Painters of the New World: The Process of Making the Florentine Codex” by Diana Magaloni Kerpel focuses specifically on the drawings included in the Codex which are excluded in most modern editions of the Historia general. Through a sustained and thorough analysis of the more than 2600 drawings, Kerpel strives to understand how they were made, including what materials, colors, or processes were used, how many painters participated in the project, and how they were organized. She treats the images as “self-contained visual narratives” and not only as parts of the larger texts. The drawings are grouped by color and themes such as: Earth and Sky; coloring with flowers; coloring with minerals; the use of Maya blue and Emerald Green; the coloring of time; black and white rhetoric; and the colors of the rainbow. Through this method Magaloni Kerpel sheds light on the drawings themselves, and also on the artists, their techniques, and how these artists viewed their evolving world. “On the Nature of Pigments,” authored by a team of researchers including Piero Baglioni, Rodorico Giorgi, Marcia Carolina Arroyo, David Chelazzi, Francesca Ridi, and Diana Magaloni Kerpel, flows well from the previous chapter. This chapter is a scientific analysis of the pigments and chemical compositions of the drawings in the Codex.
The next two chapters—“In Nepapan Xochitl: The Power of Flowers in the Works of Sahagún” by Berenice Alcántara Rojas and “Plants and Flowers in the Florentine Codex” by Salvador Reyes Equiguas—are close analyses of the flora represented in the Codex. Marina Garone Gravier in “Sahagún’s Codex and Book Design in the Indigenous Context” examines writing and text as a form of “bicultural communication.” She explores the indigenous...