“Un mercado de line…”, 1780 – Agostino Brunias

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Basic Facts: “Un mercado de line con un kiosko de lino y vendedor de verduras en las Indias Occidentales” is an oil painting on canvas by Agostino Brunias (1728 – 1796).  The title translates to “A linen market with a linen stall and vegetable seller in the West Indies”.  Brunian is an Italian painter who eventually settled in Dominica.  This painting is in El Museo del Barrio.


Description: “Un mercado…” is a traditional painting, with realistically portrayed subjects and a traditional medium.  There are many components to this painting; it depicts a market scene, which includes people of various races and ages.  There are black women wearing European influenced Caribbean dresses, looking like petit fours, very pretty.  They sit in the linen tent, talking to two fancy-looking mulatto women.  Then there are some Caucasian red coats flirting with native women next to the tent.  Farther in the background is a topless woman carrying a basket on her head. Beyond her a small crowd gathers to watch two teenage boys, wearing nothing but white knickers and headbands, engage in hand-to-hand combat.  In the right foreground, a woman breast-feeds her naked baby as those around her tend to vegetables such as corn.  A green mountain looms in the background, with a faint blue ocean in the left background.

À mon avis: Brunias’ painting is a traditional painting, but, for his time, it did express a unique acceptance of the mixing of peoples.  He portrays Europeans, natives, and mulattos interacting without tension.


The painting exhibits a traditional sense of beauty (realistic features, chiaroscuro, traditional medium of oil, et cetera); however it is the diversity Brunias presents that captured my attention.  It reminds me of Haiti, all the blends we have.  My own family, my maternal side, is a mix of white and black and mulatto; European and African and native Haitians, all living a country where you can munch Caribbean sweets from street vendors or relax in your bungalow or walk on dirt roads, all while surrounded by different sorts of people.  The painting is not urban in reality, but its concept is urban in the sense that there is a huge spectrum of things going on, involving different groups of different people.  I wish I could be there – or should I say, it makes me wish I could be in Haiti, even though it is not.  But it has mountains like Haiti (for which the country was named), and Dominca is also a francophone Caribbean country.  This painting gives me nostalgia and pride for a land to which I have never been.

La famille de Renards
(My maternal family in Haiti a couple of generations ago.)

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