Quetzalcoatl (TR18r)

Quetzalcoatl (TR18r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This example of iconography from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis shows a profile view of an upright, S-shaped, feathered serpent (Quetzalcoatl) devouring a man wearing only a loincloth. The snake's body is primarily green with wispy feathers, but it also has yellow and red on its belly. Its mouth is outlined in yellow and red, as well (see our article on Interiors on the left navigation bar on this page). Its tail also has red and yellow details, separated by a segmented white band. The tail starts with two blue rattlers, and it finishes with a big array of green quetzal feathers and a red and white flint knife (tecpatl). The snake's headdress has even more long green quetzal feathers, with a base that looks rainbow like, starting nearest the serpent's head with a curving, scalloped red band, then a curving and scalloped blue band, and finally a solid yellow band. The snake's eye is white with a blue half-circle around it, and it has a blue nose.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Feathered (or "plumed") serpents are known in Mesoamerican art from at least the Olmec period forward to the Spanish colonial period. A short article about Quetzalcoatl in Mexicolore includes this text about the post-Classic period: "The Toltecs lived in the City of Tula (near Mexico City) in the early Postclassic period (900-1200AD). They predated the Aztecs and perhaps even battled with them towards the end of Tula’s cultural and economic dominance in Mesoamerica. They are widely perceived to have spread an active cult of Quetzalcoatl as far south as El Salvador. Parallel to this historic account of Toltec civilization, the Aztecs recorded the myth that the Toltecs were led by a charismatic priest, Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl (1 Reed Our Lord Quetzalcoatl) (pic 3). Entwined in the annals of history, both god and historical figure became one. Legend says that Ce Acatl Topiltzin and the Toltecs left Tula after being tricked and shamed by Quetzalcoatl’s brother, the deity Tezcatlipoca. They travelled past Cholula (in Puebla), into the Yucatan and Chichén Itzá, and may even have gone as far as El Salvador. Whether the historical figure of Ce Acatl Topiltzin did this, or whether it was the deity Feathered Serpent, we know that Quetzalcoatl was worshipped throughout Mesoamerica up until the conquest in 1521, and that the Aztecs appeared to combine Quetzalcoatl the priest with the deity."

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood (drawing from Julia Flood in Mexicolore)

Gloss Image: 
Date of Manuscript: 

ca. 1550–1563

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood

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

Quetzalcoatl. A stone-carved feathered serpent in the act of rearing up, this pose is reminiscent of the depiction of the divinity, above. Photograph by Stephanie Wood, Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Salón Mexica, 14 February 2023. This commentary by Robert Haskett.

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Image Source: 

Telleriano-Remensis Codex, folio 18 recto, MS Mexicain 385, Gallica digital collection, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8458267s/f61.item.zoom

Image Source, Rights: 

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Historical Contextualizing Image: