Pre-Hispanic and Elusive Maya Blue Color

As described in an article By Devon Van Houten Maldonado17th August 2018.

In the 1500s in Europe, Lapis lazuli was the only blue pigment used on paintings, majolica, tiles, textiles. It was incredibly expensive but also extremely laborious to make in Afghanistan.

Right after the conquest of Mexico, Europeans were intrigued by the murals found in the temple in Chichen Itza, created around 400 A.D. Particularly since their blue color was still vibrant and had not faded. They assumed the Mayas made it out of the “Añil” plant which was a plant familiar to them, and native to Yucatan and Guatemala.

However, they could not find the elusive ingredient that made it so resilient. The Maya would make it for them, but did not tell them how they made it. Threrefore, the only painters that have access to it were the Creole painters like Baltasar de Echave Ibia, Villalpondo, and José Juárez, to mention a few.

 It was until the 1960 that an archeologist discovered a rare clay called attapulgite, which was mixed with the dye from the añil plant that made it so resilient.
Devon Van Houten Maldonado mentions in his article:
“The lack of written evidence of the use of añil or Maya blue in Novohispanic Baroque paintings is made up for with visual evidence.”

This Baltasar de Echave Ibia work is practically soaked in blue – a luxury European painters of the 1600s couldn’t have afforded (Credit: Museo Nacional de Arte de Mexico)

Villalpondo painted this cúpula of the major altar at the cathedral in Puebla, Mexico in 1688 – the blues are just as vibrant today (Credit: Devon Van Houten Maldonado)

A detail from José Juárez’s Apparition of the Virgin and Child to San Francisco, in which the aquamarine tint of Mary’s cloak is evident (Credit: Devon Van Houten Maldonado)

Spread the love

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *