Mictlantecuhtli (TR15r)

Mictlantecuhtli (TR15r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This iconographic example shows an anthropomorphic representation of the divine force of death, the lord (tecuhtli) of the place of the dead (mictlan). This figure is shown in profile view, facing the viewer's left. It is laden with symbolism, drawn and painted with many colors, and decorated with feathers, paper, shells, and more. But, at his feet, is a white skull, which points to death. Much of its body is also skeletal, with the arms and legs consisting of bone. Many part of his regalia are white, a color associated with mortuary practices and death. The starry eyes (with the red eyelids) have that association, too. Mummy bundles were sometimes decorated with paper ornaments as are found on this figure.. On his head is a turquoise-blue diadem with red trim. The diadem speaks to his title as lord (tecuhtli). The way the figure's legs are bent is suggestive of movement, perhaps dancing.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The mis-management of the gloss suggests that the writer was not a native speaker, but the painter surely was. Mictlantecuhtli ruled the underworld and was the divine force associated with death. Eloise Quiñones Keber notes that his female consort was Mictecacihuatl. She adds: "Mictlan, which was believed to be located in the north" is described in the Florentine Codex "as a dark, cold, dismal place that was the final destination of those who died an ordinary death." [For more on this figure, see her study, Codex Telleriano-Remensis, 1995, 176.]

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

michitlā tecotle

Gloss Normalization: 


Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 

ca. 1550–1563

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 

la muerte, deidades, inframundo, underworld, divinidades, fuerzas divinas, feathers, shells, stars, estrellas, eyes, ojos, bones, huesos

Museum & Rare Book Comparisons: 
Museum/Rare Book Notes: 

Mictlantecuhtli. Museo del Templo Mayor. According to the Museo, this ceramic sculpture is "a half-gaunt being in a position of attack, with claws and curly hair, probably placed using the holes he has in his head. The liver hangs under his thorax, because according to Aztec beliefs, this internal organ was closely related with Mictlan or the Underworld.... we know that the Aztecs used to offer blood to" him. Photograph by Stephanie Wood, 15 February 2023.

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

El Señor del Inframundo

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Telleriano-Remensis Codex, folio 15 recto, MS Mexicain 385, Gallica digital collection, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8458267s/f55.item.zoom

Image Source, Rights: 

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Historical Contextualizing Image: