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The Conquest of Mexico paintings are significant both artistically and historically. Painted in the seventeenth century, the eight detailed canvases tell the story of the 1521 Spanish conquest of the native Aztec people. These images highlight battles between the Spanish and the Aztecs, ceremonial encounters of the Spanish conquistador with the emperor Moctezuma, and other pivotal historic moments. The series ends with the dramatic "Conquest of Tenochtitlán" (the capital of the Aztec civilization, now Mexico City) and the capture of the last Aztec king.

The Conquest of Mexico paintings follow the traditional formula for seventeenth-century Spanish battle paintings in which large figures, often on horseback, are highlighted in the foreground, with the actual conflict occurring in the middle and backgrounds.  As is typical of such works, each painting is not limited to one moment.  Rather, a series of events are compressed onto a single canvas.  Painted about 150 years after the events they depict, these canvases are a remarkable record not only of the events of 1521 but the way in which people in the late seventeenth century regarded the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

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"Entrance of Cortés La Conquista de Mexico"

Cortés’s first major conflict with indigenous Mexicans occurred as he and his men made their way toward the city of Tabasco, located on the mainland of Mexico.  The Spanish troops, most in full armor and on horseback, engage in a furious battle with the inhabitants of Tabasco.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (090.00.00)

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"Arrival of Cortés in Vera Cruz"

Upon receiving word of Cortés’s arrival on the coast, Moctezuma, the leader of the Aztec empire, sends his ambassadors to meet the Spanish explorers.  Cortés orders a show of military strength to impress the ambassadors.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (091.00.00)

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"The Meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma"

Moctezuma, leader of the Aztec empire, and Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés meet for the first time outside the city on the shores of Lake Texcoco.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (092.00.00)

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"Death of Moctezuma"

Moctezuma, who was taken hostage by Cortés, appears in public on the upper level of the palace in an attempt to ease the hostility of his people.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (093.00.00)

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"The Sad Night"

After the death of Moctezuma, Cortés and his forces leave Tenochtitlán.  The Mexica spot them and fiercely attack the Spanish and their allies.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (094.00.00)

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"The Battle of Otumba"

During this flight from Tenochtitlán, Cortés and his men encounter Cuitláhuac, the new Mexica leader of the Aztec empire, the brother of Moctezuma, who attacks the invaders.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (095.00.00)

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"The Capture of Tenochtitlán"

Cortés leads his Spanish armies on horseback across one of the causeways and lays siege to Tenochtitlán.  He orders the complete destruction of the city.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (096.00.00)

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"The Capture of Cuauhtémoc"

After much of Tenochtitlán has been destroyed, Cuauhtémoc, the eleventh and last king of the Aztec empire, flees the city in a canoe and is captured by the Spanish.

Second half of the seventeenth century. Oil on canvas. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (097.00.00)

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