Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya

April 4 – July 25, 2004

East Building, Upper Level and Mezzanine, Northeast and Upper Level, North Bridge

THIS EXHIBITION IS NO LONGER ON VIEW AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY.

Overview: The artistic world inside the royal courts of the ancient Maya was explored in this exhibition, which presented 156 objects associated with ancient Maya kings and queens. The works, which included stone sculptures, ceramics, and masks, were gathered from some 30 public and private collections in Central and South America and Europe. The installation was organized in 6 sections: Life at the Maya Court; The Divine Model of Courtly Life; Women at Court; Word and Image in the Maya Court; The Court at War; and Palenque: An Exemplary Maya Court. A full-size reproduction of wall murals from Bonampak showing a king and court presiding over mutilated captives was included in the section The Court at War. The exhibition coincided with The Cubist Paintings of Diego Rivera: Memory, Politics, Place and was part of ¡Viva Mexico! Washington, DC Celebrates, a citywide celebration of Mexican art and culture.

An audio tour was narrated by National Gallery of Art Director Earl A. Powell III with commentary by exhibition curator Mary Miller; Simon Martin, research specialist at the University of Pennsylvania; and David S. Stuart, Bartlett Curator of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Peabody Museum, Harvard University. Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, a 12-minute film, was shown continuously within the exhibition. Showings of an expanded 30-minute version of the film were held in the large auditorium.

A public symposium, New Discoveries in the Art of the Ancient Maya, was presented on April 17. A special family weekend on May 22 and 23 included screenings of the children’s film series Popol Vuh and art activities. Discovery Creek Children’s Museum of Washington’s Rolling Rainforest was displayed outside the East Building for the weekend.

Concerts in honor of this exhibition and The Cubist Paintings of Diego Rivera: Memory, Politics, Place were presented on April 4 by Cuarteto de Cuerdas de Bellas Artes, the resident quartet of the Instituto de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and on June 13 by the National Gallery Orchestra.

30 classic and contemporary Mexican films were presented in Milestones in Mexican Cinema: 1898-2004 from April 18 through July 10, 2004. The series was organized in association with the Instituto de México, the Mexican Film Institute, Secretariat for External Affairs, and the National Council for Art and Culture. The exhibition inspired a Latin jazz brunch held each Saturday and Sunday in the East Building Terrace Café.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with Mexican partners the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA) and its agency the National Institute for Anthropology and History. Kathleen Berrin, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, curator of art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and Mary Miller, Vincent J. Scully Professor of the History of Art, Yale University, were the curators.

Sponsor: The exhibition was supported by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation and by Televisa. It also was supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The HRH Foundation provided support for the film.

Attendance: 179,304

Catalog: Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, by Mary Miller and Simon Martin et al. San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Brochure: Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, by Lynn Kellmanson Matheny. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2004.

The Art of the Ancient Maya Children’s Guide, by Carla Brenner. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2004.

El Arte Cortesano de los Antiguos Mayas Guía para Niños, by Carla Brenner, translated by Victor Montejo. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2004.

Other Venues: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, September 4, 2004–January 2, 2005

Image: Installation view of Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives