the inca and the conquistador

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From Tuesday 23rd June to Sunday 20th September 2015

Curators

  • Paz Núñez-Regueiro, Head of the Americas Heritage Unit

Related events

  • Visits, publications and events (tbc).

About the exhibition

 

Two men, a single ambition. Through the portraits of the Inca Atahualpa and the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, the exhibition presents the key events in the conquest of the Inca Empire and describes the encounter between two worlds.

 

We are in the 1520s. The Spanish empire of Charles I, with its great thirst for gold and conquests, continues the exploration of the Pacific Ocean and the South American coast that had begun a decade earlier. At the same time on the Amerindian coast, the greatest Inca empire ever known – Tawantinsuyu, "the empire of four quarters" – is expanding under the reign of Huayna Capac. The dynastic crisis provoked by Capac's death brings his son Atahualpa to power. This coincides with the arrival on Peruvian soil of the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadores.

Through Spanish and indigenous stories of the conquest, illustrating the parallel lives and conflicts of these two protagonists, the exhibition examines the key events in the history of the South American continent. Presented in the form of a dialogue, the Inca and Hispanic objects, paintings, maps and engravings of the period highlight the clash between two radically different worlds, as they underwent a profound political, economic, cultural and religious revolution.

exhibition overview

This exhibition is structured in four sections, each of which includes a varying number of objects. The first two sections contain most of the objects.

The first section presents the two opposing camps and their respective leaders. This juxtaposition allows visitors to get to know the two protagonists, Pizarro and Atahualpa, who are presented separately yet in dialogue.

The second section embodies the encounter with the Other. Particular emphasis is placed on the status of Pizarro (cavalier) and of the Inca through key objects like the wooden seat, as well as to the symbols conveyed at this encounter: the bible on the one hand and drinking rituals on the other. Then follows the capture and ransom of Atahualpa.

The third section contains fewer objects yet incorporates several multimedia displays: on the city of Cuzco, on the assassination of Pizarro and on the theft and transport of Atahualpa’s body to his native land.

As a conclusion, the fourth section opens on the consequences of the conquest and the ideal of a mixed society, still open to question today.

 

the new world

The exhibition opens with the early stages of the conquest of the southern seas and presents Pizarro at the age of 46, illustrating his little-known origins and his preliminary American journey (he was a member of the Balboa expedition, which “discovered” the Pacific in 1513). The first naval explorations to the south, in the Pacific Ocean, coincided with tales evoking the existence of the wealthy empire of “Piru”.

This introductory sequence will present early 16th-century geographical maps, Spanish chronicles and engravings.

Portrait de Huayna Capac, Inca XII
© All rights reserved - Portrait of Huayna Capac, Inca XII - Peru, colonial period, 19th century - musée du quai Branly, inv. 71.1891.64.5

two destinies

The exhibition presents two historical figures face to face and, through them, two empires whose fates would intersect. The exhibition begins with a presentation of the historical and political context of the discovery of the New World by the Spanish. Then it immerses us in the Inca empire, exploring its mode of governance and the brotherly rivalry between the two princes Atahualpa and Huascar, which would end in civil war. Atahualpa took power at the end of this war.

Siège - Pérou, Inca
Seat – Peru, Inca - musée du quai Branly, inv. 71.1878.2.459

 

Cajamarca

This section addresses the moment when the paths of the “Inca” and the “Spanish” merged into one, depicting the different stages of the encounter between Atahualpa and Pizarro in 1532-1533. The works describe the entrance into the city of Cajamarca, the capture of Atahualpa, the ransom paid by the Incas and the execution of the Inca.

These episodes were reported differently by Spanish and Native American chronicles. The display will highlight these differences as well as the cultural traditions reflected in the accounts and the military strategies of the two camps.

Vase-siffleur représentant un guerrier - Chimu
Whistling vase depicting a warrior – Chimu, Late Intermediate, 1000-1450 - musée du quai Branly, inv. 71.1878.5.10

 

wars of conquest

Pizarro led the conquest of the Inca empire. The Spanish continued their advance until they captured the imperial capital of Cuzco which marked a historic milestone, as it was such a powerful symbol and the treasures were so abundant.

The Spanish expeditions continued throughout the empire, to the North and South. They founded many towns, such as Lima ("Ciudad de los Reyes”), which became the Spanish capital on the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually, personal rivalries between the Conquistadors led to a civil war. Almagro was executed (1538), then Pizarro was assassinated by his compatriots (1541).

In counterpoint to the death of Pizarro, the exhibition will present details on the death of Atahualpa in 1533, focusing on the fate of his mummy. Initially buried in Cajamarca, his remains were recovered by the indigenous people, who were keen to preserve the sacred body of the dead Inca, who acquired the sacred status of huaca. His mummy was taken to a place that remains secret and a cult formed around his person and his defeat.

 

stories of the conquest

Display of works by chroniclers Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala and Martin de Murua, images from which are found throughout the exhibition and provide a visual illustration of this tale, as well as different paintings of the religious syncretism which operated in the region following the arrival of the Spanish.

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