Last updateFri, 19 Aug 2016 9am

Adela Breton, 19th century British artist and explorer of Mexico feted in England

In 1894, a man living near the famed ruins of Teotihuácan, 50 kilometers from modern Mexico City, discovered a small, pre-Hispanic house whose walls were covered with beautifully colored murals.

The place was called Teopancaxco or “la Casa de Barrios.” The paintings were the first of their kind found at Teotihuácan and visitors considered them spectacular.

Weather and time eventually did their damage to the murals and today we would have little idea of how they once looked if it were not for an extraordinary Englishwoman named Adela Catherine Breton who had fallen in love with Mexico’s ruins and who painstakingly reproduced these murals as watercolors. 

Mary Frech, author of “Adela Breton, a Victorian Artist amid Mexico’s Ruins,” says the explorer made “the most comprehensive record of the murals at Teopancaxco. Her re-creation of the colours of the murals is unsurpassed compared with the few colour reproductions available, and thus constitutes an irreplaceable memorial of the now destroyed masterpieces.’”

So what was an unmarried Victorian gentlewoman doing in Mexico before the turn of the century, 5,500 miles from home?

Exploring, painting, sketching, measuring and photographing not only Mexico’s best-known archaeological sites like those at Chichen Itza, but, it seems, even obscure ruins from the extensive Teuchitlán Tradition of western Mexico. These, it is generally believed, were unheard of before the late Phil Weigand gazed upon the Guachimontones in 1969.

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