Art of the Maya, by Henri Stierlin. New York: Rizzoli International Publications. 212 pp. $50.
I cannot judge the quality of this book's text - that will have to be left to specialists - except to say that it is clear and precise and utterly fascinating. Its account of the Maya and Olemec civilizations reads like a combination history, art, and travel book. And the author's attempt to establish continuity between these two civilizations is given credence by the remarkable color illustrations, detailed maps, elevation drawings, and line illustrations included.
The book opens with an account of the Olemecs and their artistic legacy, and moves on to the growth of Maya civilization; the art of Palenque and Yaxchilan in Chiapas; a transitional phase including the earliest centers of Yucatan; the blossoming of the so-called Puuc style of architecture; and the Toltec-Maya renaissance. It ends with the author's summation of the Olemec's and Maya's contributions to the overall culture of the pre-Columbians.
It is an extremely handsome and valuable book, and the best argument I have as yet encountered for a trip to these sites, to see the works of art of these civilizations.