Science Art: Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon (1825-1835), by Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck

Scientific illustration of Mayan pyramids by Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck, 19th century.

Scientific illustration of Mayan pyramids by Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck, 19th century.Click to embiggen

A painting of Mayan pyramids by a mysterious man, described on Public Domain Review (where I found this image) as an “artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma.” I recommend the article and can’t really do it justice here. Features a Mayan warrior in an unlikely jaguar onesie and a lithograph of a supposed Mayan relief with an elephant’s head in the middle. From an up-to-now unknown population of Central American elephants, one supposes.

Not that he was entirely a fantasist. The article explains:

Waldeck’s work drew ire, Pasztory convincingly argues, because he was attempting science by means of art. He was typical of a type of eighteenth-century traveller artist whose work was scientific in that it observed and recorded the natural world but who was also acutely conscious of their audience. As Pasztory writes, circa 1800 such work “needed to be presented in a way that was comprehensible yet emotionally resonant”. Waldeck excelled at this latter requirement; his “Hollywood imagination” is evident in his additions and modifications, which range from altering the location of certain ruins to the inclusion of figures from classical mythology.

As a tabloid veteran, I approve of this stance.