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Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape

Agostino Brunias

European Art

On View: Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 4th Floor
About 1764 the British government sent the painter Agostino Brunias to the West Indies to represent the islands’ multiethnic population. In contrast to the carefully ordered racial hierarchy manifested by the nearby casta painting, the figures in Brunias’s British colonial paintings present a spectrum of skin tones and often demonstrate the failure of traditional European markers to convey racial identity and status in the New World. Here, in the company of their African servants, two prosperous Caribbean-born women of mixed race wear fine pearls and European clothing. One of them, apparently the mistress of the plantation, on the island of Dominica, gestures to a blond boy who may be her son. Another woman at left, with darker complexion and less European dress, appears to be their mother.

Brunias’s pictures were conspicuously displayed in elite Dominican interiors, where, as symbols of status and wealth, they reflected and reinforced the aristocratic pretensions of the island’s new moneyed class of sugar planters.

En 1764 el gobierno británico envió al pintor Agostino Brunias a las Indias Occidentales para representar la población multirracial de las islas. En contraste con el cuidadoso ordenamiento jerárquico racial demostrado por la pintura de casta cercana, las figuras en las pinturas coloniales británicas de Brunias exhiben un abanico de tonos de piel y frecuentemente evidencian el fracaso de los indicadores europeos para comunicar la identidad racial y el estatus en el Nuevo Mundo. Aquí, en la compañía de sus sirvientes africanos, dos prósperas mujeres caribeñas mestizas llevan perlas finas y atuendos europeos. Una de ellas, aparentemente la señora de la plantación en la isla de Dominica, le gesticula a un niño rubio que puede ser su hijo. Otra mujer a la izquierda, de tez más oscura y vestido menos europeo, parece ser su madre.

Las obras de Brunias fueron exhibidas visiblemente en los interiores de las élites dominicanas, donde, como símbolo de estatus y riqueza, reflejaban y reforzaban las pretensiones aristocráticas de la nueva clase alta conformada por los hacendados azucareros.

MEDIUM Oil on canvas
DATES ca. 1770-1796
DIMENSIONS 20 x 26 1/8 in. (50.8 x 66.4 cm) frame: 25 1/2 x 31 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (64.8 x 80 x 6.4 cm)  (show scale)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 4th Floor
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver in memory of her husband, by exchange and gift of George S. Hellman, by exchange
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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CAPTION Agostino Brunias (Italian, ca. 1730-1796). Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape, ca. 1770-1796. Oil on canvas, 20 x 26 1/8 in. (50.8 x 66.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver in memory of her husband, by exchange and gift of George S. Hellman, by exchange, 2010.59
IMAGE detail, 2010.59_detail_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
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