April 8, 2009 / 6:31 PM / 10 years ago

London show to examine Aztec ruler Moctezuma

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The British Museum in London is to complete its series of exhibitions on power and empire with an examination of the rule and legacy of Aztec emperor Moctezuma II.

A turquoise mosaic and cedro wood mask from Mexico is photographed at a launch event for the exhibition "Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler" at the British Museum in London April 7, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Reigning from 1502 to 1520, Moctezuma was the last great emperor to ascend to power over Mexico’s native Aztec civilization before the invasion of the Spanish Conquistadors under Hernan Cortes.

He is remembered for consolidating an empire stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico at a time of flourishing culture, and oversaw the building of a new palace.

Paradoxically, though, he is also associated with the foreign conquest by Cortes.

“Moctezuma is ... perhaps one of the most fascinating examples of implosion of power and the clash of civilizations,” said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum.

The museum has already staged shows entitled “The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army,” “Hadrian: Empire and Conflict” and “Shah Abbas: The Making of Iran.”

The world of Moctezuma will be portrayed through objects drawn from Mexican, European and U.S. collections, ranging from sculptures, gold and mosaic ornaments by artisans employed in the Aztec court to European colonial portraits.

Also on display will be artifacts like the emperor’s coronation stone, ceremonial weaponry and architectural fragments from his palace, many of which will be in Britain for the first time.

The exhibit will depict life before the arrival of the Spanish, religious culture and Moctezuma’s semi-divine status among his subjects, as well as the emperor’s eventual defeat and interpretations of his mysterious death.

“Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler,” sponsored by steel company ArcelorMittal, runs from September 24 to January 24, 2010.

Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican revolution, there will be an accompanying exhibition “Revolution on Paper,” displaying modern Mexican prints originating from 1910 to 1960 in the wake of revolution.

The show opens on October 22 and ends on February 28, 2010.

Reporting by Anna MacSwan, editing by Paul Casciato

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