Dance, St. Vincent, West Indies, ca. 1775
National Library of Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica, Kingston
Title, Villagers Merry Making in the island of St. Vincent, with Dancers and Musicians, A Landscape with Huts on a Hill. Note, houses of the enslaved are shown on left and in background. The print shown here (slide of print, courtesy of Kenneth Bilby) is from an oil painting located in the National Library of Jamaica. Compare with images NW0251a and NW0156 on this website. A version of this painting, with some similar figures, is published in Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art (Menil Foundation, Harvard University Press, 1989), vol. 4, pt. 1, p.33, fig. 3, titled Scene with Dancing in the West Indies, ca. 1770-80. 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 , pp.104-128); see also Hans Huth, Agostino Brunias, Romano (The Connoisseur, vol. 51 [Dec. 1962], pp. 265-269).
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