The Codex Trujillo of Peru
The nine volumes of the Codex Trujillo of Peru are a true treasure, illustrating the final years of vice-regal society through more than 1,400 water colours, tables and some twenty music scores interpreted in this collection. Compiled by the Bishop Baltasar Martínez Compañón, their thematic sections describe flora, fauna, archaeological objects, mummies, textiles and ceramics. To browse one’s way through the second volume is, as it were, to watch a documentary film about colonial society: the colour prints recount an innocent, natural history – but with no words. It starts with a portrait of Queen María Luisa; a map of Trujillo; a detailed, ethnically-based, census of each settlement and a table of Spanish words translated into eight Indian languages – thus providing a key reference work for several extinct tongues.
Continuing with body-length paintings, it illustrates prevailing social differences through the intricacy of clothing, followed by some general scenes of daily toil, with Indians and negroes performing all the everyday chores, while Spaniards slumber in hammocks, enjoy a day out in the country or are transported around in carriages. Before we reach the musical scores, there are water colours of dancers and musicians with all their costumes, chains and symbols and masks. The volume closes with an index–and explanation—of all plates. The musical scores indicate the desired tempo and instruments for each work, conveying the fine points of its origin and giving guidance for its interpretation.
The Codex was intended to inform the Spanish Court about the true state of affairs in the diocese. Today it lies in the Library of the Royal Palace in Madrid. It was compiled some twenty years prior to the first of the anti-monarchist uprisings which led to the wave of independence in South America. Imports dried up instantly and, at the same time, the influence of Spain