Stick Fighting, Dominica, West Indies, 1779

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Image Reference

Painted by Agostino Brunias; engraved print published London (1779). (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

Caption begins "This plate (representing a cudgelling match between English and French Negroes in the island of Dominica) is humbly dedicated...." Stick fighting was widespread in the West Indies, and called, for example, Stick Licking in Barbados and Jamaica, Kalinda/Kalenda in Trinidad. The scene in this illustration is identical to the illustration ""negres jouant au baton" published in Nicolas Ponce, Recueil des vues des lieux principaux de la colonie Francaise de Saint-Domingue (Paris, 1791), fig. 26; see image NW025-b on this website. Another version of this print was published in London in 1810; a copy is owned by the Barbados Museum. Agostino Brunias (sometimes incorrectly spelled Brunyas, Brunais), a painter born in Italy in 1730, came to England in 1758 where he became acquainted with William Young. Young had been appointed to a high governmental post in West Indian territories acquired by Britain from France, and in late 1764 Brunias accompanied Young to the Caribbean as his personal artist. Arriving in early 1765, Brunias stayed in the islands until around 1775, when he returned to England (exhibiting some of his paintings in the late 1770s) and visited the continent. He returned to the West Indies in 1784 and remained there until his death on the island of Dominica in 1796. Although Brunias primarily resided in Dominica he also spent time in St. Vincent, and visited other islands, including Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts, and Tobago. See Lennox Honychurch, "Chatoyer's Artist: Agostino Brunias and the Depiction of St Vincent," for what is presently the most informative and balanced discussion of Brunias and his romanticized and idyllic paintings of West Indian scenes and slave life (Jl of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, vol. 50 [2004], pp.104-128); see also Hans Huth, Agostino Brunias, Romano (The Connoisseur, vol. 51 [Dec. 1962], pp. 265-269).