This pain-evoking painting was created in the year 1892 by the Mexican painter, Leandro Izaguirre (c. 1867-1941). It depicts a shameful event that occurred in the aftermath of the fall of the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan in 1521. The two men with their feet over the fire are the artist’s representations of the captured Aztec Emperor, Cuauhtémoc, as well as the Aztec leader of the city of Tacuba. As shown in the painting, the two Aztec noblemen were questioned and tortured by Spanish conquistadors, who hoped to discover through interrogation the whereabouts of hidden treasure. Bernal Díaz del Castillo (c. 1492-1584), one of the conquistadors present for the conquest of Tenochtitlan wrote of the incident:
“They tortured Guatemoc [or Cuauhtémoc] and the lord of Tacuba by burning their feet with oil, and extorted the confession that four days before they had thrown the gold into the lake, together with the cannon and muskets they had captured from us when they drove us out of Mexico. The place Guatemoc indicated was the palace in which he had lived, where there was a large pond, from which we fished up a great golden sun like the one that Montezuma had given us, and many jewels and articles of small value which belonged to Guatemoc himself” (The Conquest of New Spain, chapter 157).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz, translated by J. M. Cohen. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.