Astounding Aztec Art Facts That Will Absolutely Amaze All Artists!

Tanya Parkhi
Apr 07, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Nov 25, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
Set of two Mexican Mayan Aztec wood and ceramic mask on black background.

The Aztecs were a colorful, bustling civilization that occupied middle America in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

They are known for their love of art and music, much of which has been preserved to date. Beautiful items made of clay, stone, and precious materials have been recovered, all of which give us a glimpse into their rich, long history.

Art was so important to Aztec society that it was seen as a tradeable resource in Aztec times, and people often traded their artwork for more materials or artwork from other lands. Much of their art was devoted to religion, gods, and even ordinary life. To learn more about the amazing Aztecs, read on!

If you enjoy this article, you may enjoy our pages on Aztec sun stone facts and Aztec religion facts as well.

Common And Popular Aztec Art

The Aztecs were artists at heart and used many mediums to express their gratitude for life and to show the beauty in everything. Art was also one of the purest forms of prayer to the gods.

The most common forms of art used by the Aztecs were sculpting with clay, whittling wood and stone to create tablets and statues, and working with feathers. They often traded exclusively for quality art materials and tried to incorporate as many precious materials as they could in other to make their art valuable.

Working with clay was also a very respected profession, and beautifully crafted pots, jars, and flutes were used during festivals and religious ceremonies.

They used stone to make everything from small trinkets to huge statues, even making whole pyramids as temples to the gods!

Body art was also very prevalent, with warriors painting their bodies using geometric stamps and people adorning themselves skillfully crafted jewelry made of gold, precious stones, and colorful feathers.

They also revered poetry and music as a form of self-expression and crafted musical instruments like flutes and drums from wood, shells, and clay to play songs praying for bountiful rain or making requests to their deities.

Aztec Art History

The Aztec empire flourished in Mesoamerica or middle America and was a civilization that consists of the countries of Honduras, southern Mexico, northern Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua of today.

Their culture and civilization grew slowly over the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in 1519, who took over the region and wiped out the native people. They spoke the Nahuatl language, which is still spoken by a small population of Mexico today.

The Aztec civilization was bustling and booming, and they had a heavy interest in art. In fact, most of their livings depended on it, with people making beautiful temples, creating sculptures of gods and emperors, weaving fine clothes, and making elaborate paintings and statues based on the world around them.

Many people traded in precious materials such as gold, silver, coral, and precious stones, which were heavily used in making jewelry and exquisite art pieces for the nobility.

Trading took place in a huge marketplace in the capital city of Tenochtitlan (which is interestingly now where Mexico city stands! ), which was a lively, bustling place.

Their artwork was so valuable to them that they often traded it with other lands to receive materials like grains, cloth, and materials to make more artwork! They also bartered for artwork from other regions as well.

Aztec art was heavily influenced by other Mesoamerican cultures which came before it, like the Olmecs, Toltecs and Teotihuacans.

Maya Aztec style stone statue detail.

Aztec Art Themes

A lot of ancient Aztec art was based on intellectual and common themes in Aztec society such as religion, politics, and local flora and fauna. Many sculptures and metal likenesses of local deities have been recovered, such as that of one of the agricultural gods Xipe Totec.

These were most likely made to show the significance of agriculture for the Aztecs, and their dependency on grains like corn, vegetables, and flowers. Clay and stone idols of maize deities were also a common feature, further elaborating the importance of corn.

They used a lot of symbolism and metaphors in their art, using specific animals as well as other objects from the natural world to represent gods- like using hummingbirds to depict the sun god, eagles to show the warrior spirit, and flowers to represent the beauty of life.

Another important figure was the feathered snake, or Quetzalcoatl, who represented the water, rain, and the desire to reach the skies.

The feathered serpent is a very common

The Aztecs are known for their cryptic and mysterious carved calendar stone. These tablets were carved with beautiful symbols and hieroglyphs and showed deep knowledge of astrology and the movements of the stars and as well as the celestial bodies.

Famous Aztec Art

Aztec artists were known for their precision and eye for lifelike detail. They were able to capture all the aspects of life quite beautifully, using bold colors, precious quality materials, and sharp angles which reflect in their sculptures.

There are fortunately some pieces of art and architecture from this rich culture that have been retrieved and preserved and can be seen in museums all over the world today. For example, many beautiful ornaments featuring the two-headed snake are present in the British Museum in London.

One of these is the Malanico war drum, which is an elaborately carved wooden drum covered with pictures of jaguars and eagles.

Eagles represented warriors, while jaguars were regarded as the bravest beasts. It is currently in the Regional Museum of the City of Toluca.

Aztec art is not only limited to paintings and sculptures but also consists of famous architecture such as the step pyramids - the most famous one being the Great Pyramid of Cholula, a temple dedicated to Aztec religion, notably the god Quetzalcoatl.

It is located in the city of Cholula in Mexico and is known for its six-layered steps, as well as beautiful murals and sculptures within which are dedicated to the gods.

Another awe-inspiring stone pyramid is the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan, which is accompanied by its twin the Temple of the Moon.

One of the most famous sculptures in Aztec history is the Coatlicue sculpture, which is presently being displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

This Aztec sculpture is over 10 ft (3 m) tall and shows the visage of the frightening goddess of the earth Coatlicue, in position ready to strike. A common element of the sculpture seems to be snakes, which are present on her skirt, head, and neck.

Snakes were apparently a metaphor for blood squirting, which aligns with the story of Coatlicue being beheaded by her daughter.

Another unconventional form of art that the Aztecs used was poetry. They wove beautiful pictures of the gods, their surroundings, and everyday life with their words, and called it 'flower and song'.

Though these poems were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, the most famous poems were later penned down in the books Romances de Los señores de la Nueva España and the Cantares Mexicanos.

Aztec Art Materials

Art was a huge part of the Aztec civilization, and local artists were known to use a variety of materials in order to bring their imaginations to life. They made use of as many natural resources as they could for art and architecture, as well as traded for precious materials to incorporate into their art.

The most common materials at their disposal were clay and feathers, though they also used natural materials like stones, shells, wood, and mud. The precious materials which they added were coral, gold, silver, obsidian, quartz, turquoise, and copper.

They were very adept at making beautiful sculptures, tablets, and mosaics, all of which were made of a variety of different materials. They often made masks and other ornaments in this style.

Another item favored by the Aztecs was quetzal feathers, which they plucked from the male quetzal bird bred exclusively for this purpose. The long, striking green and gold feathers went into making clothing, elaborate headdresses, armor, and ceremonial shields, and were incorporated in exquisite art as well.

Items made with these feathers were reserved solely for the upper classes like emperors, priests, and the nobility - common people were not allowed to wear them.

They were also fond of using jewelry to express themselves, and lip plugs, earrings, and nose plugs made out of gold and precious stones (notably turquoise and jade) were commonly seen adorning the faces of the higher classes.

Clay was also a highly revered medium for the Aztecs, and they used it to make everything from common cooking pots to beautifully detailed ceremonial vases and containers. Aztec pottery was made by hand, without the use of any wheels, and was adorned with paint made from natural materials and precious stones.

Molds were used to make dishes and simple pots, which were used for serving food and storing grains.

The more elaborate pots were traded as a form of art as well as collected by the higher-ups, and used in many religious ceremonies. They also made ceramic masks, flutes, and wooden carved drums which were used in festivals and ceremonies.

Rare And Valuable Aztec Art

The most valuable items in Aztec culture were those made with quetzal feathers, and with precious materials such as gold, jade, and turquoise. These were often limited to the richer, upper classes, as the common people could not afford them.

Rare items include statues made out of stone, stone tablets depicting the Aztec calendar as well as elaborate clothing such as headdresses and shields.

Mosaic items made with clay and adorned with shells and precious stones were also very precious and owned mostly by the upper classes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Aztec art facts then why not take a look at Aztec pyramids facts, or Aztec geography facts.

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

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Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah Gulbargawala picture

Amatullah GulbargawalaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah is a passionate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from Ashoka College of Education. With a keen interest in literature, she has excelled in elocution competitions and is an accomplished writer. She has completed courses like "History of English Language and Literature", "Introduction to Western Political Thought and Theory", and "Development of Soft Skills and Personality". In her free time, Amatullah enjoys reading books and writing poetry.

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