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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
 
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AZTEC
Mexico
Standard-Bearer
1200–1519
Volcanic stone

47 7/16 x 16 x 13 1/4 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of D. and J. de Menil

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean
 
ABOUT

This stark figure displays the minimalism and monumentality of Aztec stone sculpture. The rigid pose resembles the block of stone from which it was carved. In contrast, the loincloth knot and ear and nose ornaments are rendered in skillful detail. Large sculptures like this one stood at the top of Aztec temple stairways. During ceremonies, this Standard-Bearer would have held a banner in the right hand and flowers or paper ornaments in the left.

When Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from his first voyage to the American continents, Europeans soon heard of his findings and set out in search of riches and glory. The first American culture conquered by the Spanish were the Aztecs, who called themselves the Mexica. They were defeated by conquistador Hernán Cortés two years after his arrival in 1519. The priests who came with the Spanish explorers were eager to bring Catholicism to this New World and erase the native religion. Sculptures like the Standard-Bearer quickly disappeared.