Date

2017

Department or Program

Art

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Liza Oliver

Abstract

Enlisted to entice British settlement, Agostino Brunias (c. 1730-1796) built much of his reputation on an ethnographic style that presented the British West Indies as profitable and picturesque. In reality, however, imperial control in the 18th-century British West Indies was neither as obvious nor as secure as these canvases may suggest at first glance. New theories on nationhood, economic and social organization, and human difference produced ill-fitting and incoherent conceptions of empire. The Anglo-French War was fought in Caribbean waters, local merchants lobbying for free trade endangered British national industry, and the threat of conflict between indigenous peoples, Africans, and Europeans was an ever-present reality. There is a need, therefore, to recuperate a history of instability and revise our narratives of successful imperial conquest in the colonial Caribbean. Brunias’s market scenes, The Linen Market, Santo Domingo, A Linen Market with a Linen-stall and Vegetable Seller, Market Day, Roseau, Dominica, and Linen Market, Dominica, which are at once images of civility and prosperity in the Caribbean, allow us to explore the various readings of resistance and contestation back into 18th-century history.

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