Monday, 4 January 2010
Cortez the killer
My son and I went to see the Moctezuma - yes, Moctezuma - exhibition at the British Museum today. It was fascinating. It still seems utterly incredible that Cortes and 500 men could take over a whole country and destroy the Aztec culture but they did. A display comparing the Aztec weapon of choice - what looks like a wooden chopping board with flint teeth - and Spanish armour and weapons (which included muskets) did not really explain it. It's a sad and complicated story and the exhibition left us both wanting to know more.
The artifacts are amazing. The exhibition was not too busy so we were able to have a good clear, long look at things. The bas relief carving was great. I've always loved the Aztec sense of design - the way they fill the space. The look of the Eagle and Jaguar warriors is amazing too.
Of course, I have also always - like all boys - been fascinated by the human sacrifice aspect of Aztec culture: the ripping out of human hearts to feed the sun. Death is a massive presence throughout, with stone skulls at every turn. The exhibition was full of reference to this act - drawings and sculptures, knives for removing hearts, elaborately carved stone vessels for holding hearts.
Turquoise and gold are the overwhelming colours of the show - but blood red is the colour that really dominates.
After the exhibition we had lunch and then wandered down to Soho for a haircut and then to Covent Garden. We went in the Tintin shop in Floral street and my son ogled the lovely but horribly expensive collection of cars and figures. Then we went a couple of doors down and I ogled the clothes in Paul Smith. We agreed that if he could not spend £50 on a a model of Tintin and Captain Haddock riding camels, then I could not really justify spending £30 on some stripy socks for my iPod.