FIGURE 16. Tribute offering of woven thrones and mats, from folio 4v of the Matrícula de Tributos.
FIGURE 17. Meeting of Moctezuma and Cortés, both seated on folding chairs: Cell 11 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 18. The surrender of Cuauhtemoc: Cell 48 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
FIGURE 19. The covenant between Cortés and the Tlaxcalans, from Cell 29 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
Mesoamerican rulers, like their European counterparts, sat on special chairs to demonstrate their status. In Postclassic Central Mexico, these high-backed chairs, or icpalli, were made of woven palm leaves or reeds. They were usually placed upon a woven mat, or petlatl. One Nahuatl metaphor for “to govern“Â was therefore petlapan, ycpalpan nica: “I am on the woven mat, I am on the woven throne.“Â15 Folio 4v of the MatríÂcula, depicting the goods demanded from the tribute province of Quauhtitlan, claims that every 80 days the people of Quauhtitlan had to supply 4,000 woven mats and thrones to Tenochtitlan (Figure 16).
When the Europeans arrived, they brought an exotic new form of throne with them: the x-shaped folding chair. As Lori Diel has shown, Mesoamerican nobles quickly adopted the European folding chair as a symbol of prestige, and often chose to depict themselves sitting on this kind of throne rather than on traditional woven icpalli.16 Cell 11 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, for example, shows the first meeting of Moctezuma and Cortes in Tenochtitlan. Both men are seated on European folding chairs, which indicates their status as rulers (Figure 17. However, when Moctezuma’s successor Cuautehmoc finally surrenders to Cortes in Cell 48 of the Lienzo, only Cortés is enthroned (on the left). Cuauhtemoc stands in front of him, holding a shield but no weapons (Figure 18).
In contrast, the central cell of the Lienzo—Cell 29—shows a meeting between Cortés and one of the rulers of Tlaxcala. As argued in the “Introduction to the Lienzo de Tlaxcala” tutorial, this cell probably depicts Cortés promising the Tlaxcalans a privileged status in the empire of King Charles V, a reward for not betraying the Spaniards when they fled Tenochtitlan a week before. Behind the Tlaxcalan noble, on the right, is an indigenous-style building with a folding chair inside (Figure 19). This chair is probably meant to symbolize the high status of the Tlaxcalan noble to whom Cortés makes his promise.
15 ‘Gouernar. nite, pachoa. nite, yacana. & per metaphoram. nite, itqui. nite, mama. nocuexanco, nomamalhuazco yelouatiuh. nocuitlapan. noteputzco yeloac. petlapan, ycpalpan nica’ (Molina 1555: 131v; see also Sell and Burkhart 2009, 143.
16 Diel 2005.