Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Parlours to Pyramids Volume 53 Number 6, November/December 2000
by Mary McVicker

Fleeing the "gilded cage of English civilization," artist and adventurer Adela Breton became a skilled copier of Maya murals and reliefs in the early 1900s.

At the age of 50, when many of her contemporaries were beginning to think of a comfortable retirement, Adela Breton was entering the most productive years of her career. It was 1900, the place Chichén Itzá, the Late Classic and Postclassic (ca. A.D. 800-1200) Maya ruin in Yucatán, Mexico. Adela had come to verify the accuracy of drawings of the renowned British Mayanist Alfred P. Maudslay, who wanted to include them in his great eight-volume work, Biología Centralia America. Her artistic ability, exacting attention to detail, and comprehensive knowledge of the culture that had originally produced the images made her work highly sought after.

In Parlours to Pyramids, Breton biographer Mary McVicker details the intrigues, strained relationships, and artistic accomplishments of one of the significant contributors in the early years of Maya studies.

Mary McVicker, an independent scholar, writes about the history of archaeology in Mesoamerica. She has co-edited catalogs for two exhibitions of Precolumbian art, and is the author of a biographical sketch of Adela Breton for The Art of Ruins. She is also completing a full biography of Breton.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America