Moctezuma’s headdress and other pre-Hispanic treasures outside of Mexico

Mexico's president wants Austria to return the feather headdress said to have been worn by Aztec emperor Moctezuma

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador described the Austrian government as “Arrogant” for not allowing Moctezuma’s headdress to be sent to Mexico.

(MEXICO – TYT).- As part of the celebrations of the Bicentennial of the Consummation of Independence in  2021, the leader of the Executive promised that he would return the famous Moctezuma headdress to the country, or at least bring it for temporary display. But, that was not possible.

(Photo: Yucatan al momento)

Even Beatriz Gutiérrez Müeller, wife of López Obrador, traveled to the European nation to deliver the letter that AMLO wrote to the president of Austria, Alexander van der Bellen. 

But Gutiérrez Müeller was told that they would not give him the pre-Hispanic treasure, made up of bird feathers and gold ornaments, with the justification that “he would not endure the trip”, so it remains in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna.

How did Moctezuma’s headdress end up in Austria?

The plume was a gift from Moctezuma to Hernán Cortés when he arrived in Mexico at the beginning of the 16th century, according to the most widespread theory about its origin and collected by the BBC. 

In addition, it is not proven that the piece, made with quetzal feathers and other birds mounted on a gold base, was used by the Aztec leader.

(Photo: Yucatan al momento)

But how did it get to Austria? One of the most accepted hypotheses highlights that Cortés gave the object to King Carlos I of Spain, who gave it to King Chalres I from Germany. The monarch had Austrian origins from the Habsburg family, so the plume could ended up in that European nation. 

At the end of the 16th century the plume was located as part of  the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg , who was a relative of Charles I. 

Other pre-Hispanic treasures abroad in addition to Moctezuma’s headdress

Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller also delivered a letter to the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador requested the temporary loan of the Codex Fiorentino and the Codex Cospi or Bologna that remain in Italian libraries.

(Photo: Yucatan al momento)

The first is “a very valuable testimony about indigenous daily life and cosmogony and contains illustrations made by tlacuilos, the ancient Aztec llustrators,” López Obrador said in his letter.

Another similar letter was delivered to Pope Francis by Gutiérrez Müller, requesting the Vatican to loan three other codices and their maps of Tenochtitlán, one of which is the Codex Borgia, one of the earliest examples of Aztec-style writing seized during the Conquest.

In France there is also the Borbonic Codex, a key piece for understanding how the Mexica calendar, deities and other rituals were represented. 

On the other hand, in the British Museum in London is the mask of Tezcatlipoca, made in the fifteenth century on a human skull inlaid with turquoise.

In the same enclosure is the mask of Quetzalcóatl, linked to the god of rain, which is also believed to have been a gift from Moctezuma to Cortés.

The London museum also has the Aztec Two-Headed Serpent, a turquoise mosaic sculpture dating from between 1400 and 1521 and brought to London in 1892.

(Photo: Yucatan al momento)

So now we know that Moctezuma’s headdress is not the only pre-Hispanic treasure abroad, there are other highly valuable treasures in E.

The Yucatan Times
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