31 December 2009

The Stairwell Mural

The main problem with murals, as I have said before, is that one cannot take them down, crate them up, and take them on tour. If one is a fan of murals, as I am, one must go to the mural. The mural is never going to come to you.

I came to appreciate better the second great problem with murals when I saw Diego Rivera's mural depicting the history of México in the stairwell of the National Palace in México City. There is no way to photograph murals in order to give someone else even an approximation of what they are like in the flesh. I have looked at a lot of professional photographers' attempts at this on the internet. They all fail miserably. And so knowing in advance that I am going to fail, too, I am going to show you some photos anyway.

There are many Rivera murals in the National Palace that he painted between 1929 and 1945. I am only going to address that mural in the main stairwell. Diega Rivera was not an admirable man. We need not go into details here. However, this mural depicting the history of México is incredible. It includes depictions of over 1,100 figures from Mexican history. It was painted with paint that Rivera formulated himself using natural dyes and other natural pigments from Mexico.

The main stairwell consists of three walls, the two smaller side walls and the large central wall capped by five arches. The mural covers these three walls. In photos one can usually only see three of the arches of the central wall because columns on the second floor make it difficult to get a wide angle picture of the entire central wall. One climbs the stairs, goes around to the railing on the second floor, and gapes a this thing. The right wall depicts the ancient, mythical world of México, and the left wall depicts two alternate visions of the future of México. The big central mural sets out the meat of modern Mexican history under the five big arches.

When one sees photos like this, it simply appears a mishmash. So I tried to take just a few detail photos to give you a better idea of thing.

The Inquisition.

Spaniards Torturing the Indigenous Folk.

The Mexican-American War of 1847 is depicted at the top of this panel.

Land, Liberty, and Bread.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to experience that mural on site. Thanks for the glimpse. Happy New Year.

Ruth said...

I've seen that mural, Steve. The Mexican muralists were a wonder. Did you get to see the fabulous murals at the Bellas Artes?

Feliz Ano Nuevo.