FIGURE 39. Black body paint worn by priests from Cholula, in Cell 10 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 2. Tlazolteotl as costume elements on folio 12r of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis.
FIGURE 40. Tezcatlipoca in Cell 14 (left) and Cell 41 (right) of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 41. Xipe Totec in the place sign for Chipetlan on folio 10r of the Matrícula de Tributos.
FIGURE 29. Man from Chiyametlan wearing a red feather as a nose ornament in Cell 67 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
Face and body paint were an important aspect of personal ornament in Central Mexico, and indeed throughout Mesoamerica. In the Matrícula and Lienzo, face and body paint are used to indicate occupation, the identities of different deities, and ethnicity.
Priests throughout Mesoamerica painted their faces and bodies black. According to one sixteenth-century source from Central Mexico, this black paint was created by burning insects and scorpions.31 Several of the individuals in Cell 10 of the Lienzo are shown with their bodies and faces painted black. Cell 10 takes place in the city of Cholula, an important pilgrimage center. These men with blackened faces and bodies are probably priests, of which there were many in this sacred city (Figure 39).
Different divine beings were also associated with different kinds of face paint. Above, in an example from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, we saw that the goddess Tlazolteotl wore black paint around her mouth (Figure 2). One of the most important gods in Tlaxcala was Tezcatlipoca (“Smoking Mirror”), associated with rulership, warfare, and divination. His distinctive face paint consisted of five horizontal stripes in alternating colors. Tezcatlipoca appears twice in the Lienzo, first in Cell 14 (to indicate the month Toxcatl, when he was honored in a major festival) and again in Cell 41, where the temple of Texcoco contains a sacred bundle dedicated to Tezcatlipoca (Figure 40). Sacred bundles were an important aspect of religion throughout Mesoamerica.32 They were made of a holy object (often a statue of a deity) wrapped in yards and yards of cloth. In order to indicate what holy object a bundle contained, artists often represented these objects with a head on top—the head of the supernatural with which the bundle was associated. Another supernatural we met above, Xipe Totec, appears on folio 10r of the Matrícula as part of the place sign for Chipetlan (“Place of Xipe”). Xipe was often represented with a yellow face and body (representing his flayed skin) and a vertical red stripe through his eye (Figure 41).
Finally, as mentioned above in the section on ethnicity, many of the enemy warriors in Cells 52-80 of the Lienzo have their faces painted with black horizontal bands across the eye and cheek (Figure 29). Because most of these cells deal with places in western Mexico, this style of face paint may have been associated with that region. However, this style is also worn by people in Cells 79 and 80, scenes that takes place in Guatemala. Again, rather than indicate a specific ethnicity, this style of face paint may have been an invention of the Tlaxcalan artists, used to indicate “enemies” or “barbarians” in general.
European Dress >
31 Durán 1971, 114-116 (chapter 5).
32 Stenzel 1970.