FIGURE 13. Rest on the flight from Tenochtitlan: Cell 23 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 14. Melancholy Malinche, from Cell 23 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 15. Mary Magdalene, by Nicolas van Aelst, engraving by Francesco Brizio (1580-1600). London, The British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, Registration Number 1874,0808.1971. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A number of the people in Cell 23 of the Lienzo have their eyes closed, but they are not dead: they are sleeping. Cell 23 depicts events which took place on July 4, 1520 (Figure 13). The Spaniards and their Tlaxcalan allies had just fled Tenochtitlan a few days before, on the night of June 30. They spent a week—seven days—traveling through the Valley of Mexico in order to reach safety in Tlaxcala, in the next valley to the east. According to the letters of Hernán Cortés, the defeated army took a day to rest half-way through their week-long escape. Cell 23 depicts this day of rest. Some warriors stay awake, on guard, but others nod off in sleep.13
One of the sleeping figures is Malinche, drawn in the lower right corner. She props up her nodding head with a hand (Figure 14). As argued by Federico Navarrete, Malinche is closely associated in the iconography of the Lienzo with the Virgin Mary. Strikingly, the pose of Malinche in this cell is identical to the European pose for representing the emotional state of melancholy.14 In early modern European art, this pose was particularly associated with two female divinities: the Virgin Mary (mourning for her dead son Jesus) and the penitent Mary Magdalene (pondering in sorrow the misdeeds of her earlier life; Figure 15). By depicting Malinche in this melancholy pose, head resting on her hand, the artists of the Lienzo connected Malinche to her spiritual namesakes (the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene), and at the same time underscored the emotional weight of this central scene. The joint Tlaxcalan-European army had just been driven in defeat from Tenochtitlan, with heavy casualties. The tattered army continued to be attacked as it slowly traveled east across the Valley of Mexico. Would everyone die before they reached Tlaxcala?
13 For more information about Row 4 and the flight from Tenochtitlan, see the Poetics: Flowers and Song Nahua tutorial.
14 Baird 1988, 17; Daniel 2006.