A revision of Moctezuma II, last Aztec emperor, is presented at the British Museum in London, United Kingdom, in an exhibition integrated by codices, paintings, sculptures, gold work and portraits.

“Moctezuma: Aztec ruler” was inaugurated in September 22nd 2009 with the presence of Margarita Zavala, wife of the president of Mexico; Consuelo Saizar, president of the National Council for Culture and Arts (CONACULTA), Alfonso de Maria y Campos, National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) general director, the director of British Museum, Neil MacGregor, and Juan Jose Bremer, Ambassador of Mexico in the United Kingdom.

The exhibition open from September 24th 2009 to January 24th 2010, analyses the mythic character of the emperor and his legacy as ruler of one of the most important Prehispanic empires.

Mexica masterpieces, including the impressive Teocalli of Sacred Warfare, which presents the last emperor’s hieroglyph, a turquoise headset with a nose ornament, as well as iconographic material from Europe and Mexico is exhibited for the first time in Great Britain.

Promoted by the British Museum and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the exhibition offers a biographical tour to Moctezuma II life and reveals the dual nature of his reputation, being acknowledged as a successful warrior but also perceived as a tragic figure that handed his empire to foreigners.

Six monuments   commissioned by Moctezuma II are reunited for the first time, which have his name and image carved. Architectural scale models are also exhibited, as well as an exquisite mask made out of turquoise mosaics mounted on wood, example of craftsmanship developed by Mexicas.

Seven master paintings known as “Enconchados” (made with shells) created in late 17th century by artists Juan and Miguel Gonzalez, from Museo de America in Spain are part of “Moctezuma, Aztec Ruler”.

Paintings show the history of conquest, and the name Enconchados refers to the technique of inlaying mother-of-pearl fragments to oil on panel works.

Modules of the Exhibition


The first   section opens with Tenochtitlan foundation in 1300 of the Common Era, which rapidly developed into a great metropolis. The foundation myth is symbolized with a greenstone heart and an eagle sculpture.

Moctezuma as governor

Moctezuma had to pass a military test in order to succeed his uncle Ahuizotl, before being formally invested. At his coronation in 1502, an emblem, turquoise and gold articles were handed to him. 

He constructed a palace next to Tenochtitlan ceremonial center that he dwelled with his wives, children and closest collaborators. Architectural vestiges of this palace are exhibited.

Religion and Deities

Moctezuma was considered an   intermediary between Mexica deities and the people. A model of Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan ceremonial center is exhibited here.

Ritual offerings of blood and captives, mythology and New Fire ceremony celebrated when Mexica century turned over near 1508 are the theme of this module.

War and Empire

Moctezuma was a great warrior, head of Mexica army and of Eagle and Jaguar warrior orders. Ceremonial warfare and a monument sculpted by Aztec warriors is shown. Malinalco was the place where warrior orders finished their education.


The arrival of Hernan Cortes in 1519 was announced to the Emperor by omens. Moctezuma sent emissaries to the coast to pay his respect to the visitors, making the fatal error of inviting them to his palace.

Moctezuma was taken captive and Mexica nobility was massacred. Soon after, he died. One version tells that Mexica gave him death and others, that Spaniards secretly killed him.
Main conquest events are documented by Colonial paintings.

Moctezuma in History
After his death, Spaniards conquered the empire with help of Mexica’s enemies. In this module, the sculpture of a serpent transformed in baptismal pile is exhibited. 

Codices show how his 3 children Isabel, Mariana and Pablo arrived to Spain and married with nobles. The exhibition ends with European portraits that show Moctezuma as a proud warrior.