The murals of Bonampak are the most extensive and complete wall paintings of the ancient Maya, remarkable discoveries since 1990 at San Bartolo, Calakmul, and Xultun notwithstanding. With dates of 790 and 791 embedded in the paintings themselves, the murals are among the last major programs executed by the lowland Maya. Painted at roughly half to two-thirds life size, they wrap around the interiors of three rooms, with dozens of individual painted figures, some of which are repeated from room to room; King Yahaw Chan Muwan appears only in Room 2, on both the north and south walls. Carved and painted lintels frame each room, featuring Yahaw Chan Muwan over the doorway of Room 1, and King Shield Jaguar of neighboring Yaxchilan over Room 2. Good general overviews of the Maya include information about the site, its carved stone monuments, and its architecture, in addition to commentary about the paintings of Structure 1. The small site, which lay within the sphere of Yaxchilan, is also the home to three important stelae and a number of wall panels. A significant tomb was discovered in 2010 within Structure 1, in the bench of Room 2.
The late 8th-century Maya wall paintings of Bonampak have been treated in both specialized and general works since their discovery in 1946. One should always start with the first substantive publications: Villagra Caleti 1949 and Ruppert, et al. 1955. Long the standard publication of the murals, Ruppert, et al. 1955 included the reconstructions of Antonio Tejeda, well known and widely reproduced because of their presence at Harvard’s Peabody Museum. Thompson’s strong opinions about Maya civilization led him to make many misjudgments about the paintings. The most recent and comprehensive considerations can be found in Miller and Brittenham 2013 and de la Fuente and Staines Cicero 1998: they both fully supersede all previous publication. Espinosa, et al. 1988 were the first to report on the paintings following the 1985–1986 cleaning by INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia). General works to be consulted include Coe and Houston 2015 and Miller and O’Neil 2014. Miller 2002 in RES is a good short overview of the paintings and their meaning.
Coe, Michael D., and Stephen Houston. The Maya. London: Thames and Hudson, 2015.
Coe’s general book on the Maya has long provided ample attention to Maya art; the new edition with Houston expands its coverage to the murals of Bonampak.
de la Fuente, Beatriz, and Leticia Staines Cicero, eds. La Pintura Mural Prehispánica en México II: Área Maya—Bonampak. 2 vols. México City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones, 1998.
Comprehensive volume with iconographic and architectural studies by many scholars associated with the Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas. Includes foldouts that reconstruct the paintings photographically and map them into the architecture of Bonampak’s Structure 1.
Espinosa, Augustín, Mauricio Rosas Kifuri, Beatriz Sandoval, and Abelardo Venegas. Bonampak. México City: Citicorp, Citibank Mexico, 1988.
Excellent color photographs and fresh readings based on the cleaned paintings.
Houston, Stephen D., David Stuart, and Karl A. Taube. The Memory of Bones: Body, Being, and Experience among the Classic Maya. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988.
This study of Maya thought includes interpretations and readings based on the Bonampak paintings, although not organized by site.
Miller, Mary. “The Willfulness of Art: The Case of Bonampak.” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 42 (2002): 8–23.
A good short essay on the paintings and their meanings.
Miller, Mary, and Claudia Brittenham. The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Paintings of Bonampak. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
Including large-scale foldouts of color reconstructions by Heather Hurst and Leonard Ashby, this volume incorporates the work of the Bonampak Documentation Project, which conducted archaeological research and novel imaging techniques at the site in 1996.
Miller, Mary, and Megan O’Neil. Maya Art and Architecture. 2d ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 2014.
Miller and O’Neil devote a chapter of this edition to Maya murals.
Ruppert, Karl, J. Eric S. Thompson, and Tatiana Proskouriakoff. Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. Publication 602. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1955.
Long the standard publication of the murals, this volume includes the well-known reconstructions of Antonio Tejeda, well known and widely reproduced because of their presence at Harvard’s Peabody Museum. Maps and photographs document architecture and sculpture
Villagra Caleti, Agustin. Bonampak: La ciudad de los muros pintados. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Secretaría de Educación Pública, 1949.
Augustín Villagra Caleti made one of the first sets of reconstructions, working alongside Antonio Tejeda, and they appear as foldouts in this short book. Working under the guidance of Alfonso Caso, Villagra precociously recognized war, constellations, and a likely historical meaning of hieroglyphic captions.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Adornment, Dress, and African Arts of the Body
- Ancient Egyptian Art
- Ancient Pueblo (Anasazi) Art
- Angkor and Environs
- Art and Architecture in the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary
- Art and Propaganda
- Art of Medieval Iberia
- Art of the Crusader Period in the Levant
- Art of the Dogon
- Art of the Mamluks
- Art of the Plains Peoples
- Arts of Senegambia
- Arts of the Pacific Islands
- Assyrian Art and Architecture
- Australian Aboriginal Art
- Aztec Empire, Art of the
- Babylonian Art and Architecture
- Bamana Arts and Mande Traditions
- Barbizon Painting
- Bernini, Gian Lorenzo
- Bohemia and Moravia, Renaissance and Rudolphine Art of
- Borromini, Francesco
- Brazilian Art and Architecture, Post-independence
- Burkina Art and Performance
- Byzantine Art and Architecture
- Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da
- Carracci, Annibale
- Chaco Canyon and Other Early Art in the North American Sou...
- Chicana/o Art
- Chimú Art and Architecture
- Colonial Art of New Granada (Colombia)
- Conceptual Art and Conceptualism
- Contemporary Art
- Courbet, Gustave
- Czech Modern and Contemporary Art
- Daumier, Honoré
- David, Jacques-Louis
- Delacroix, Eugène
- Design, Garden and Landscape
- Destruction in Art
- Dürer, Albrecht
- Early Christian Art
- Early Medieval Architecture in Western Europe
- Eighteenth-Century Europe
- Ethiopia, Art History of
- European Art, Historiography of
- European Medieval Art, Otherness in
- Eyck, Jan van
- Festivals in West Africa
- French Impressionism
- Gender and Art in the Middle Ages
- Gender and Art in the Renaissance
- Gender and Art in the 17th Century
- Giotto di Bondone
- Gothic Architecture
- Gothic Art in Italy
- Goya y Lucientes, Francisco José
- Great Zimbabwe and its Legacy
- Greek Art and Architecture
- Greenberg, Clement
- Géricault, Théodore
- Iconography in the Western World
- Installation Art
- Islamic Art and Architecture in North Africa and the Iberi...
- Japanese Architecture
- Japanese Ceramics
- Jewish Art, Ancient
- Jewish Art, Medieval to Early Modern
- Jewish Art, Modern and Contemporary
- Jones, Inigo
- Kahlo, Frida
- Lastman, Pieter
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Luisa Roldán
- Markets and Auctions, Art
- Marxism and Art
- Maya Art
- Medieval Art and Liturgy (recent approaches)
- Medieval Art and the Cult of Saints
- Medieval Art in Scandinavia, 400-800
- Medieval Textiles
- Meiji Painting
- Merovingian Period Art
- Moche Art
- Modern Sculpture
- Monet, Claude
- Māori Art and Architecture
- Museums in Australia
- Museums of Art in the West
- Nasca Art
- Native North American Art, Pre-Contact
- New Media Art
- New Spain, Art and Architecture
- Olmec Art
- Pacific Art, Contemporary
- Palladio, Andrea
- Parthenon, The
- Performance Art
- Perspective from the Renaissance to Post-Modernism, Histor...
- Philip II and El Escorial
- Photography, History of
- Pollock, Jackson
- Polychrome Sculpture in Early Modern Spain
- Postmodern Architecture
- Pre-Hispanic Art of Columbia
- Psychoanalysis, Art and
- Qing Dynasty Painting
- Rembrandt van Rijn
- Renaissance and Renascences
- Rivera, Diego
- Rodin, Auguste
- Roman Art
- Science and Conteporary Art
- Sculpture: Method, Practice, Theory
- South Asia and Allied Textile Traditions, Wall Painting of
- South Asia, Modern and Contemporary Art of
- South Asia, Photography in
- South Asian Architecture and Sculpture, 13th to 18th Centu...
- South Asian Art, Historiography of
- The Art of Medieval Sicily and Southern Italy through the ...
- The Art of Southern Italy and Sicily under Angevin and Cat...
- Theory in Europe to 1800, Art
- Timurid Art and Architecture
- Turner, Joseph Mallord William
- van Gogh, Vincent
- Viking Art
- Warburg, Aby
- Warhol, Andy
- Wari (Huari) Art and Architecture
- Wittelsbach Patronage from the late Middle Ages to the Thi...
- Women, Art, and Art History: Gender and Feminist Analyses
- Yuan Dynasty Art