Colouring the Caribbean: Race and the art of Agostino Brunias

Posted in Arts, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2017-12-29 02:19Z by Steven

Colouring the Caribbean: Race and the art of Agostino Brunias

Manchester University Press
December 2017
272 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5261-2045-8
eBook ISBN: 978-1-5261-2047-2

Mia L. Bagneris, Jesse Poesch Junior Professor of Art History
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Colouring the Caribbean offers the first comprehensive study of Agostino Brunias’s intriguing pictures of colonial West Indians of colour – so called ‘Red’ and ‘Black’ Caribs, dark-skinned Africans and Afro-Creoles, and people of mixed race – made for colonial officials and plantocratic elites during the late-eighteenth century. Although Brunias’s paintings have often been understood as straightforward documents of visual ethnography that functioned as field guides for reading race, this book investigates how the images both reflected and refracted ideas about race commonly held by eighteenth-century Britons, helping to construct racial categories while simultaneously exposing their constructedness and underscoring their contradictions. The book offers provocative new insights about Brunias’s work gleaned from a broad survey of his paintings, many of which are reproduced here for the first time.


  • Introduction
  • 1. Brunias’s tarred brush, or painting Indians black: race-ing the Carib divide
  • 2. Merry and contented slaves and other island myths: representing Africans and Afro-Creoles in the Anglxexo-American world
  • 3. Brown-skinned booty, or colonising Diana: mixed-race Venuses and Vixens as the fruits of imperial enterprise
  • 4. Can you find the white woman in this picture? Agostino Brunias’s ‘ladies’ of ambiguous race
  • Coda – Pushing Brunias’s buttons, or re-branding the plantocracy’s painter: the afterlife of Brunias’s imagery
  • Index
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Coloring the Caribbean: Agostino Brunias and the Painting of Race in the British West Indies, 1765-1800

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2010-02-07 19:09Z by Steven

Coloring the Caribbean: Agostino Brunias and the Painting of Race in the British West Indies, 1765-1800

Mia L. Bagneris, Doctoral Candidate in the Department of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

This dissertation explores interracial themes in the work of Agostino Brunias, a little known but fascinating Italian artist who painted for British patrons in the late-eighteenth-century colonial Caribbean. Brunias came to the Caribbean around 1770 in the employ of Sir William Young, a British aristocrat who had recently been appointed governor of the West Indian islands ceded to Britain from France at the conclusion of the Seven Years War. For the next twenty-five years the prolific artist created romanticized images of communities of color including native Caribs, enslaved Africans, and free mulattoes that obscured the horrors of colonial domination and plantation slavery. Instead of slave markets or sugar plantations, Brunias’s canvases offered picturesque market scenes, lively dances, and outdoor fantasies tinged with rococo naughtiness that selectively recorded the life of the colonized for the eye of the colonizer. Local Colors explores Brunias’s use of interracial sexuality, mixed-race bodies, and racial ambiguity in creating this selective visual record, aiming to discover why the bodies of mixed-race women in particular made such perfect canvases for mapping out the colonial desires of British patriarchs. The project also explores how Brunias’s work might be understood as simultaneously participating in and subtly, but significantly, troubling the solidification of racial classification of the eighteenth-century.

Comments by Steven F. Riley

Read a excellent essay about the life of Agostino Brunias by Dr. Lennox Honychurch at his website here.

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