Created between 1580 and 1600 in Peru, this manuscript employs images and text to chronicle the history and culture of the Inca before and during the transition from the Andean Pre-Columbian period to colonial Peru. By using illustrations, prose, and verse this work aims to explain the Incan past to a Postcolonial European audience. It contains information on history, noble genealogy, costumes, customs, social events, religious rituals, laws, and the built environment of what became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru in the late sixteenth century. It contains 270 pages and measures 30.8 x 22.2 cm.
Scholars have determined that four folios of the Codex Murúa were migrated to enhance the Getty Murúa which is essentially a more complete version of the same work. These two codices are often studied in relationship to each other and Guamán Poma’s 1615 work entitled El Primer Nueva Coronica i Buen Gobierno which covers the same subjects.
Regal Portraits, Events, and Landscape in Brilliant Color
Codex Murúa contains over 100 images in ink, watercolor, and other colorants accompanied by Inca folklore, history, and poetry text. It is known for its brightly colored representations of portraiture and costumes of Inca noble men and women. The regalia and headgear meticulously indicate the complex indigenous textiles of Inca garments and adornments; however, the human form appears to be a conventional European prototype. Likenesses of non-Inca residents are also pictured in this work.
Religious ceremonies, festivals, and legal proceedings are carefully depicted to give a rich, realistic visual account of the events and the locales where they took place. Vibrant landscape renderings include maps and plans of infrastructure features such as roads. Architecture represented includes Inca temples and civil structures as well as Spanish colonial buildings.
Martín de Murúa (c. 1525-c. 1618) a Mercadarian friar from the Basque region of Spain, is the author and compiler of this codex. Murúa collaborated with Felipe Guaman de Ayala, an Incan artist, to craft depictions of Incan life and transcribe the Quechua narrative related to them by native inhabitants. Fray Murúa and Guaman Poma worked with local scribes who wrote the passages in Spanish.
Inca Culture in Context
The text of the codex is written in cursive. Illustrations appear on the verso side of the page with the explanatory text on the recto of the adjacent page. In some instances, the watercolor of the illustration comes through on the text behind it. Most of the text pages have neatly outlined margins. Page headings are in larger writing and separately outlined.
Travels of The Codex
Scholars believe that the manuscript traveled to Spain with Martín de Murúa in the beginning of the 17th century. Later in the 1700s it became the possession of Colegio de la Compañia de Jesus, a Jesuit college in Alcaláde de Henares, Spain.
Later, from 1879-1890, it was housed at a Jesuit retreat in Poyanne, France. During the 1950s it was purchased by a bookseller in the United States then sold to John Galvin (d. 1996), a private collector. It remains in the collection of Sean Galvin in Dublin, Ireland.