EBoone_photo 5 12 low res

313 Woldenberg Art Center
(504) 314- 2204

Painted Words

Their way of writing cover001



Elizabeth Hill Boone, Professor and Chair, History of Art

Elizabeth Boone (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1977) is a specialist in the Precolumbian and early colonial art of Latin America, with an emphasis on Mexico. Formerly Director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, she has taught art history at Tulane since 1995. In 2006-8 she was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Member of the Academia Mexicana de la Historia. Her research interests range from the history of collecting to systems of writing and notation; they are grounded geographically in Aztec Mexico but extend temporally for at least a century after the Spanish invasion.

Her last monograph book is a synthetic analysis of the Mexican divinatory and religious codices (Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate, Texas Press, 2007), which explains the figural vocabulary of the sacred calendar and its prophetic forces, but focuses on the graphic structures that unite the two. The book also reinterprets the great narrative passage in the Codex Borgia as a Mexican cosmogony. This book is conceptualized as a companion to her Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs (Texas Press, 2000; Spanish translation, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010), which won the Arvey Prize of the Association for Latin American Art. A new volume of papers edited with Gary Urton, Their Way of Writing: Scripts, Signs, and Pictographies in Pre-Columbian America (Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard Press, 2011), broadly considers Amerindian systems of writing. Her current book project focuses on manuscripts painted after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when indigenous rulers, intellectuals, and artists/writers adjusted to new forms of graphic expression but still maintained their rich tradition of figural pictography. In this she is particularly interested in how indigenous pictography adapted under the influence of European script and image-making, and why it retained its agency as a container of truth. Specifically the book focuses on two European literary genres—the catechism and the encyclopedia—that became uniquely pictorialized in early colonial Mexico.

Her overriding interest is in the way knowledge is recorded graphically: how, for example, stories about the past can be told pictorially and how religious and mantic concepts can be expressed solely through images. She is interested also in understanding the circumstances in which visual thinking and pictorial expression prove to be more effective than logo-syllabic scripts.

Courses taught at Tulane:

Art Survey I: Prehistory through the Middle Ages
Mesoamerican Art (upper division lecture course)
Colonial Art of Latin America (upper division lecture course)
Aztec Art (senior /graduate level seminar)
Aztec Iconography (graduate seminar)
Seminar on Mexican Manuscript Painting (senior/graduate level seminar)
Colonial Art of Latin America (graduate lecture/seminar)
Seminar on Images and Meaning (graduate seminar)
Sixteenth-century Mexico (senior/graduate level seminar)

Recent Publications:

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Relatos en Rojo y negro: historias pictorales de los aztecos y mixtecos. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill, and Gary Urton. 2011. Their way of writing: scripts, signs, and pictographies in Pre-Columbian America. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. This new world now revealed: Hernán Cortés and the presentation of Mexico to Europe. Word & Image 27, I (2011): 31-46.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill, Louise M. Burkhart, and David Eduardo Tavárez. Painted words: Nahua Catholicism, politics, and memory in the Atzaqualco pictorial catechism. Dumbarton Oaks, 2017.

Curriculum Vitae


Tulane University, Newcomb Art Dept., 202 Woldenberg Art Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5327