This stark figure displays the minimalism and monumentality of Aztec stone sculpture. The rigid pose resembles the block of stone from which it was carved. In contrast, the loincloth knot and ear and nose ornaments are rendered in skillful detail. Large sculptures like this one stood at the top of Aztec temple stairways. During ceremonies, this Standard-Bearer would have held a banner in the right hand and flowers or paper ornaments in the left.
When Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from his first voyage to the American continents, Europeans soon heard of his findings and set out in search of riches and glory. The first American culture conquered by the Spanish were the Aztecs, who called themselves the Mexica. They were defeated by conquistador Hernán Cortés two years after his arrival in 1519. The priests who came with the Spanish explorers were eager to bring Catholicism to this New World and erase the native religion. Sculptures like the Standard-Bearer quickly disappeared.