Hernan Cortes

This engraving shows Hernán Cortés (1485–1547), the Spanish captain who headed the conquest of the Aztec Empire. He became a part of popular mythology the moment he arrived in Mexico in 1521. Cortés had spent time in Cuba killing and enslaving its indigenous inhabitants and administering the new social order of the Spanish colonies of the Caribbean. As his well-read memoirs attest, even his experiences in Cuba did not prepare him for the history-altering intrigues, battles, and cultural encounters between the Spanish and the Mexicans, Mayas, and their many neighbors in between. Motivated by an ancient notion of fame, Hernán Cortés wrote his own version of the conquest of Mexico that put him squarely at the center, favored by the Christian God. But neither his victories nor his pillage of the Mexican capital would have been possible without the aid of soldiers, slaves, and supplies from the enemies of the Aztecs. As a testament to Cortés's enduring fame, his portrait by the Spanish painter Antonio Carnicero was published as an engraving by Manuel Salvador y Carmona in 1791 in the book, Retratos de los españoles ilustres, con un epítome de sus vidas, (Portraits of Illustrious Spaniards, with a Synopsis of Their Lives.)
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
ca 1795
Cortes, Hernan
original artist
Carnicero, D. A.
graphic artist
Carmona, D. J. A.
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 35.9 cm x 22.7 cm; 14 1/8 in x 8 15/16 in
Place Made
España: Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Cultures & Communities
Native Americans
Mexican America
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Graphic Arts
Mexican America
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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