Teotihuacan imagery, in wall paintings, decorated pottery, ceramic and stone figurines, stone sculpture, and architecture, demands a chapter of its own. I call it “imagery” rather than “art” because it had purposes other than art for its own sake, although aesthetic considerations were important. I focus on a few topics of special interest to me.
The first impression of anyone accustomed to European art is that Teotihuacan imagery is two-dimensional and static. Human figures appear squat, stiff, and expressionless. The flowing and naturalistic styles of the Classic Maya can be more easily appreciated. Like European art of the Middle Ages, the Teotihuacan style takes some getting used to. With more exposure to it, one sees much of it as dynamic, tension-laden, and full of depths conveyed by means other than geometric perspective. For example, in this depiction of a man-feline (Figure 8.1), probably from the Techinantitla compound (Berrin 1988: 187), when one realizes that the curved objects emanating from the claws are flames, it becomes a spine-tingling image of tensed and blazing fury. Understanding, in this image of the Storm God at Techinantitla (Figure 8.2), that the arch in the background is a portal through which the god emerges, the scene is filled with three-dimensional depth and motion. It is eventful, anything but static, and imagining it as enacted by a performer who either represents, or, more likely, for the moment is the Storm God, can be an emotion-laden experience. Teotihuacanos, from early childhood, and of all ranks in the society, must have found public religious pageantry intensely moving, and it would have gone far toward inculcating belief in messages intended by elites, whatever realities were.
Mention of Teotihuacan imagery calls to mind the paintings on the walls of rooms in some residential compounds. Miller (1973) illustrates many. Beatriz de la Fuente's volumes (1995) include many discovered later and have higher quality reproductions.