Plaque Project: Bret Stephens ’91

On the stairway to the Latin wing, a detailed plaque depicting a Mayan coronation ceremony catches one’s eye. The image, carved by Bret Stephens `91, shows a new king in the process of being crowned by his father, the old king. The figures sit on thrones carved with human forms, which affirms their royal status. Stephens was drawn to the “beauty and complexity” of the scene, and especially to the “stately way in which it involved a recognizable moment in human interaction.” Given the complexity of the image, Stephens feels lucky for the guidance he received in carving the three-dimensional details.

However, in addition to its aesthetic appeal, the plaque resonates for Stephens personally as well. This scene originally appeared on a carving from a Mesoamerican archaeological sight. Having grown up in Mexico City, Stephens recalls visiting such archaeological sites with his father as one of their “favorite things to do together.” During his senior year, Stephens felt as if he and his father were “changing places” as Stephens helped his father through medical challenges. The scene’s representation of a “generational changing of the guard” thus took on a deeper and more personal significance. On one level, the plaque presents an intriguing visual, but beyond that it communicates something of importance. Even today, Stephens feels “moved” by the image and the memories it encompasses.

-Written by Eleanor MX ’16