The # 1 tourist destination in Mexico today: testimony to the incredible 1786 discovery of the ruins of Palenque

Palenque Drawings

End of the 18th century

Palenque Drawings

Palenque Drawings

— End of the 18th century

  1. 1786: an unbelievable discovery is made in the middle of the Mexican forest primeval: the famous Palenque!

  2. This city of ruins was once a center of Mayan culture and is Mexico's most visited tourist attraction today

  3. The account of the expedition is illustrated with copies of reliefs by the draftsman Ricardo Almendariz

Palenque Drawings

Alternative Titles:
  • Estampas de Palenque
Palenque Drawings – Biblioteca del Palacio Real (Madrid, Spain) / Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

In the year 1786, an expeditionary group commissioned by the Spanish crown made an unbelievable discovery in the middle of the Mexican forest primeval: the famous Palenque! This city of ruins was once a center of Mayan culture. Today, the archeological site is the touristic highpoint of the country. As one of the first archeological discoveries of the Maya on the American continent, the discovery of Palenque was a sensation of the late 18th century. The expedition leader, Antonio del Río, recorded his impressions and experiences from the year 1786 in an account for the King. This was enriched with thrilling copies of the reliefs and the additional figurative ornaments of the ruins, which the draftsman Ricardo Almendariz completed as a companion of the expedition. All this offers a glimpse into the epoch’s fascinating spirit of discovery!

Palenque Drafts

In the year 1786, an expeditionary group commissioned by the Spanish crown made an unbelievable discovery in the middle of the Mexican forest primeval: the famous Palenque! This city of ruins was once a center of Mayan culture. Today, the archeological site is the touristic highpoint of the country. As one of the first archeological discoveries of the Maya on the American continent, the discovery of Palenque was a sensation of the late 18th century. The expedition leader, Antonio del Río, recorded his impressions and experiences from the year 1786 in an account for the King. This was enriched with thrilling copies of the reliefs and the additional figurative ornaments of the ruins, which the draftsman Ricardo Almendariz completed as a companion of the expedition. All this offers a glimpse into the epoch’s fascinating spirit of discovery!

Archeological Discoveries at the Behest of the Crown

Around the end of the 18th century, the inhabitants of a small village in the Mexican Chiapas Jungle made a surprising find. They discovered stone heaps that proved to be relics of an old city of ruins. This discovery roused the interest of the Spanish royal house, which quickly commissioned the exploration of the ruins – hoping for a trove of gold and other precious objects. In May of 1786, an expedition under the supervision of the engineer Antonio del Río reached Palanque. The wilderness amidst the breath-taking nature was searched through with the help of Indian workers and volunteers. The path to the ruins was cleared with axes and heavy equipment like crowbars and pickaxes. In this way, the expedition discovered an archeological sensation in the Mexican forest primeval!

Evidence of an Impressive Culture amidst Breath-Taking Nature

Palanque has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The archeological site in the southern Mexican highlands comprised the ruins of an old Mayan metropolis, overgrown by the jungle and hidden for the most part to this day. Palanque was a great power of the Mayan Empire from the 6th century to the mid–8th century. A settlement in the area can be substantiated from as early as the 4th century after Christ. Palenque comprises numerous splendid buildings, inter alia, a palace, a grandiose temple for the worship of deities, and ziggurats up to 20 meters tall which served as tombs for dead kings. Many of these buildings in Palanque are artfully adorned, e.g. with figurative stucco reliefs and mysterious Mayan hieroglyphics. Numerous reliefs and pictorial representations both on the walls as well as on mighty pillars in the palace. There is a depiction, inter alia, of the accession of three Mayan queens.

Copies of Mayan Art

The artworks were recorded by Ricardo Almendariz. Almendariz, an artist from Guatemala, accompanied the first expedition to Palenque under del Río as a draftsman. He made 30 drafts of the figurative bas-reliefs, which grant a glimpse in to the great art of the Mayans. Several of the reliefs from the 7th century are destroyed today, wherefore the drafts of Almendariz represent valuable documents. The drafts accompany the account of Antonio del Río, in which the discoveries and adventures of the archeological expedition were recorded. In the compendium of the account and drafts, both the admiration for the Mayans’ buildings as well as the fascination of the early archeological discoverers find unmitigated expression!

An Account for the King

These records and drafts of the first scientific expedition to the archeological site of Palanque served as proof and an informative document for the Spanish King Carlos III, the official commissioner of the expedition. “The detailed and thorough records of the expedition reached the Spanish royal court and were never made public.” The more thorough scientific examination of the city of ruins in the Mexican forest primeval first began in the second third of the 19th century. Today, Palenque is one of Mexico’s most sensational tourist attractions.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Estampas de Palenque
Date
End of the 18th century
Language
Illustrations
25 magnificent watercolors
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Palenque Drawings“

Estampas de Palenque
Palenque Drawings – Biblioteca del Palacio Real (Madrid, Spain) / Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, Spain)
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Estampas de Palenque

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1993
Limited Edition
980 copies
Binding
Bound in full brown leather
Commentary
1 volume (240 pages) by Manuel Ballesteros Gaibrois
Language: Spanish
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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Publisher