Fateful Encounter at the Axis Mundi at last…

Back in March with a batch of “paper dolls” (my mother-in-law’s description of my maquettes) in front of me,I created a composition that I thought might be suitable for a painting. The painting ,to be part of a cycle devoted to the Mayan creation myth, the Popol vuh. Working from the above mentioned composition I  set about creating some sketches; discovering I enjoyed certain elements of each, I came up with what is now (for now) a final composition .

The scene depicts the moment in the Underworld Xibalba when the freshly sacrificed Maize God, Hun Hunahpu is placed upon a calabash tree (some interpretations mention the tree as the World Tree-the Axis Mundi). The orthodox depiction of the scene is one in which only his head is placed amongst the branches; as I have a difficult time resisting the full form, I took some liberties. Mayan scholars take heed.

With our hero dangling like strange fruit, the Xibalba princess Xquic searches out this forbidden treasure (sounds familiar?). The Maize God upon encountering the Princess spits into her hand (subtle romantic move on his part) and from this spittle the Hero Twins are miraculously conceived , one more virgin birth in the canon of world mythologies. It is this scene I depict, one where the infant Hero Twins float between their parents; soon the Princess will depart the gloom of the Underworld for the sunshine of the living earth. A new adventure will begin for all of the characters.

Fateful Encounter at the Axis Mundi
oil on canvas

 The following is a detail of the Maize God,

detail of Maize God

This is of the Hero Twins, my inspiration was the many early Renaissance depictions of the Annunciation in which the Christ Child is depicted as this wee little babe floating within a nimbus of light.

detail of the infant Hero Twins

And at last, the Princess ( with her demonic cousin Ralph).

detail of the Princess and cousin Ralph

With that I close, having attempted to depict an epic tale of wrathful demon-gods,  a virtuous savior, a virgin birth and heroic infants on a rather limited 20 by 30 inch canvas.

I am now working on a primer, a primer of New Spain. The first letter of course being “A”, will be devoted to the Axis Mundi. So far it looks like it will be handsome.

Until next time,

take care,


Author: babylonbaroque

I am a painter and printmaker working towards creating a body of work that reflects my own developing aesthetic. New work ,first link. The second link is an on-line portfolio.

14 thoughts on “Fateful Encounter at the Axis Mundi at last…”

  1. spectacular really is the only word for it… i am again enthralled by the colors, but i keep coming back to the tree. first, the blue! wonderful–but also, the twisty structure, and well: it has its own personality, doesn’t it? a definite role in events. i have never been able to depict bark the way i wanted with paint–i like the lines too much given by ink, but somehow you’ve managed to produce just the effect.
    i love that you’ve put his whole figure. and that hell mouth!!! wow!!!!!

    and cousin ralph’s subtle romantic move…hah!!
    an excellent balance, too, between the raw terror of the flames and the hell mouth and the sacrifice and the promise of departure and a new adventure. the little bit of blue sky peeking out from under that fabulously horrible yawn in the earth is awesome.

    i’m very curious about how you will do the primer…especially an ‘axis mundi’ –so much to fit! i hope you will post progress photos…?

    1. I really appreciate your “reading” my painting, it is meant to be read.
      I love trees, particularly nude trees ( in line with my preference for the nude form); twisting trees are a particular love. we have many here in the hot difficult climate of southern CA. The ink like quality I believe is due to the fact that I am a linear directed painter;like the Florentines, line over mere color.
      The Axis Mundi is almost complete, based upon an actual and quite mythic tree in a botanical garden quite close to my home. Will be eager for your thoughts.
      Take care,

    1. Thank you, yes, I think I might be on to something with this theme. The primer is going to enhance the project. Modestly,I feel pleased with the direction; your guidance, kindness and encouragement is of tremendous benefit. I really look forward to your input,thank you.

      1. I knew what you meant, I’m often all thumbs.
        Like Christ and the harrowing of hell , I plan on returning (:

      1. In all seriousness, I did think your painting was quite marvelous. Also, archetypical mythologies and symbols have always fascinated me, perhaps providing proof (or at least the argument) of man’s collective consciousness.

  2. I appreciate that, and your wit.
    You summed it up nicely concerning archetypes, it helps me to better understand my own fascination with these tales that seem so universal and indeed collective. Thank you.

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