Pál Kelemen at Copan, 1940

Copan: Pál Kelemen at Temple 11 in 1940

Pál & Elizabeth Kelemen were pioneers in the field of Mesoamerican Art History. Visiting Copán in 1940, they write: "The ruins at Copán, built in the well-watered valley of the Copán River, were quite different from the Maya cities in Yucatán. Our first impression was of the open monumentality of the place. First, we crossed a wide, level field framed with low mounds and ruins, among them one tall stela. There was a sort of acropolis, a vast, apparently man-made mound, 100 feet high with irregular additions, the sides of which seemed held together by stairs, as if bound by giant ribbons.

The soft green color of the stone enhanced the grace of its outline. On the face of the longest wall, perhaps the first to be built, the riser of the top step was decorated with a bold band of glyphs. Huge ceiba trees broke through the ascent and warped the flowing line. On top was a series of open spaces, surrounded by low buildings. The building stone seemed to have especially lent itself to carving in the round. The sequence of the various stairways added to the total effect of astounding lightness and grace. A demon figure, holding a writhing snake in its mouth, crouched at the top of the stairs on the other side."

Pál & Elizabeth Kelemen, The Kelemen Journals: Incidents of Discovery of Art in the Americas, 1932–1964, p. 58, p. 62