Free Woman of Color, Barbados, late 1770s


Engraved print from painting by Agostino Brunias. See Comments.


Titled by the artist, The Barbadoes Mulatto Girl, this engraved print shows an anonymous free woman of color (freedwoman) purchasing fruit/vegetables from enslaved vendors (see also, image NW0149-a ). Agostino Brunias (sometimes incorrectly spelled Brunyas, Brunais), a painter born in Italy in 1730 and came to England in 1758 where he became acquainted with William Young. Young had been appointed to a high governmental post in the Caribbean territories Britain had acquired from France, and in late 1764 Brunias accompanied Young to the Caribbean as his personal artist. Arriving at Barbados in early 1765 (where the sketch for the image shown here, perhaps for others as well, was probably done), 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). A photograph of this print was given to Handler in the 1960s by the late Neville Connell, Director of the Barbados Museum. Four Brunias paintings, some containing elements of images shown on this website (including, for example, the slave woman in the lower right, above) can be seen on the website of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Another copy of The Barbadoes Mulatto Girl is held by the Yale Center for British Art; it was published in London in 1779 and is dedicated to John Geo., Felton.


Brunias, Agostino

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