Washing Clothes in a River (Dominica or St. Vincent), West Indies, 1770s


National Library of Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica, Kingston


Title, West India Washer Women, shows several women washing clothes in a river; a small child is playing by the riverside. The location is not given, but it is probably Dominica or St. Vincent. The print shown here (slide courtesy of Kenneth Bilby) is from an oil painting located in the National Library of Jamaica; another version of this print is held by the Barbados Museum (see, for example, reproduction in Andrew J. O'Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided [Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2000], p. 37; other versions of the painting are also known). Compare with image reference NW0150-a on this website. 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).

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