I came across the magnificent work of an Inca chronicler named Waman Puma de Ayala -- or Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala -- and I wondered: how did he learn to draw his codex?

Resources for viewing his codex "Primer Nueva cronica y buen gobierno" online do exist but are disparate, google image may give the more hurried some insight.

The Incas did not have writing, this is pretty much established. Since they used knotted ropes to count and not a scriptural representation, I assumed that papyrus or parchment was not something that existed or at least was common in Inca society. This is an assumption, if I am wrong already tell me.

Moreover, the rare photos of figurative art objects that I could find on the internet seem to be of a very different style, more "primitive" than that of the chronicler Ayala. Was Ayala heavily influenced by the Western style of the time? I assume so when I look at the codex, but I find it hard to imagine what Spanish figurative art objects might have been found in the daily life of a late 16th century Inca chronicler.

For comparison, here is another document from the same period (1613 this one, against about 1615 for Ayala's).

Regardless of this comparison, certain elements such as the coats of arms, the beginning of perspective or the way animals are drawn, make Ayala's encounter with Western figurative art obvious.

Assuming that he learned to draw, or at least to perfect his drawing with Spaniards, how did this happen? Was there some spanish man capable of drawing and eventually teaching Ayala, this early in the meeting of this two peoples? Was he heavily influenced by some spanish books he stumbled upon?

  • 1
    There's actual still a bit of a debate about exactly what kind of information Quipu could encode, and its quite possible (even likely) there was much more to them than numbers.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 3, 2021 at 2:27
  • Yeah, I was a bit quick on this point, you're right knots can encode much things. Unfortunately, it does not inquire about the medium and techniques of figurative art
    – atrefeu
    Dec 3, 2021 at 10:20
  • 2
    According to Wikipedia, he died over 80 years after the first contact. As I remember, the Incas were using captured guns, armor, and horses during the Inca revolt in 1536. I think that there was plenty of time for him to learn about drawing from the Spanish.
    – MAGolding
    Dec 3, 2021 at 17:10


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