Adela Breton (1849-1923) was a Victorian gentlewoman whose parents supported her education and artistic training. Anthropology and the 'new' science of geology appealed to her father and soon captured her own interest. After her father's death in 1887, Adela began a lifetime of travel, exploring past cultures and landscapes. Often camping or staying in small villages, accompanied only by her Indian guide and companion, she created a pictorial account of the Mexican countryside in the 1890s. Famed archaeologist and fellow Briton Alfred P Maudslay, aware of Adela's talents, asked her to return to Mexico and check his copies of the murals at the ruins of Chichen Itza in the jungles of the Yucatan. This was the turning point in her career that would lead to international recognition as an archaeological copyist, researcher, and interpreter of the rapidly disappearing painted walls of ancient Mexico. Today her artwork is the only detailed colour record of many aspects of the Pre-Columbian past. When the Mexican Revolution of 1910 ended her travels to Mexico, she turned her inquiring mind to linguistics and began her study and copying of rare colonial-era documents.
Mary McVicker writes of Adela Breton, her independence from the structures of Victorian life, her career as a pioneering artist-archaeologist, and the enduring significance of her work.
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