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The Florentine Codex

The Florentine Codex

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will present an overview of the Florentine Codex.

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Tutorial

An overview of the Florentine Codex.

Video Transcription

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Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell and today's lesson is about the Florentine Codex. As you're watching the video feel free to pause, move forward or rewind as often as you feel it's necessary, and as soon as you're ready we can begin.

Today's objectives, the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain how the Florentine Codex is one of the first examples of ethnography, and identify pages from the Florentine Codex.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is codex, a book made of handwritten pages. Nahautl, language of the Aztecs, spoken in Central Mexico and indigenous to Mesoamerica. Ethnography, a branch of anthropology, that deals with scientific study of human cultures.

Big idea for today, the Florentine Codex is one of the very first examples of ethnography.

Florentine Codex was written over the course of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun's lifetime primarily from 1545 to 1590.

We'll be returning to Mexico today.

Now the idea of a codex, or codices-- codices is plural for codex-- wasn't new to this region as the Mesoamerican people had well-established codex-making traditions at the time of the Spanish conquest. In their desire to conquer and convert the native people of this region, the Spanish destroyed many of these works. Now Franciscan monk, Bernardino de Sahagun, felt that if knowledge of indigenous people's customs and traditions could be preserved, it would make them easier to convert to Catholicism. Now this belief led to the first ethnographic efforts in the new world and the creation of the Florentine Codex.

Now it was written in 13 volumes with the working title of, A General History of the Things of New Spain, and each volume addressed a certain aspect of life for the Aztecs, such as their gods, local plants and animals, such as this butterfly page, customs and festivals, this page is referencing the Aztec calendar, medicine and healing technique. It was an important collection of the accumulated knowledge, history and culture of the people of Mesoamerica.

Because of this Sahagun was careful in his attempts to preserve this knowledge in their own language in the way that they understood it. Now it was originally written in Nahautl, the Aztec language, before later being translated into Spanish. Sahagun also obtained information from a variety of sources, including both men and women, people from different social classes, and people of different professions. And this notion of variety carries over into the drawings as well, which incorporate both indigenous and Western pictorial traditions, and were completed by many different artists.

The Florentine Codex serves as one of the most important examples of early ethnography and cultural preservation in history.

So that's the end of our short lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you explain how the Florentine Codex is one of the first examples of ethnography? And can you identify pages from the Florentine Codex?

Once again the big idea for today, is that the Florentine Codex is one of the very first examples of ethnography.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "The Florentine Codex"

Key Terms

Codex

A book made of hand-written pages.

Nahautl

Language of the Aztecs, spoken in Central Mexico and indigenous to Mesoamerica.

Ethnography

A branch of anthropology that deals with scientific study of human cultures.

Citations

Image of Harvest from the Florentine Codex, Creative Commons,
; Image of Aztec Gods from the Florentine Codex, Creative Commons,
; Image of Butterflies from the Florentine Codex, Creative Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Florentine_C...; Image of the Aztec Calendar from the Florentine Codex, Creative Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Florentine_Codex-_Aztec_Calendar.jpg.tif; Image of Mexico City Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distrito_Federal...

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Codex

    A book made of hand-written pages.

  • Nahautl

    Language of the Aztecs, spoken in Central Mexico and indigenous to Mesoamerica.

  • Ethnography

    A branch of anthropology that deals with scientific study of human cultures.