Black Caribs, St. Vincent, 1773
National Library of Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica, Kingston
Title, Chatoyer, the Chief of the Black Charaibes in St. Vincent with his Wives. The so-called Black Caribs were descendants of the indigenous Caribs and fugitive black slaves from St. Vincent and neighoring islands. In the late 17th century and the early 18th, many of these slaves came from Barbados, 100 miles to the east. The print shown here is from an oil painting located in the National Library of Jamaica (slide of print, courtesy of Kenneth Bilby); a print is also owned by the Barbados Museum, with its caption noting drawn from the life by Agostino Brunyas, 1773. 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. It was during the three years, 1765-1768, that Brunias had his greatest access to the Black Caribs and he did several paintings of Chatoyer during this period. 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 , pp.104-128); see also Hans Huth, Agostino Brunias, Romano (The Connoisseur, vol. 51 [Dec. 1962], pp. 265-269).
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