Skip Navigation

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

Agostino Brunias

European Art

Commissioned by the British government, the Italian artist Agostino Brunias created a series of paintings capturing the complex social and racial hierarchies of plantation life on the newly acquired British island of Dominica. Here, on the grounds of a sugar plantation, two mixed-race sisters wearing European-style clothing appear at center alongside their mother (at left), two children, and eight African servants. Brunias signaled the women’s elite status based on subtleties of skin color and dress, as well as space, foregrounding them in a position typically occupied by white settlers in traditional British “conversation pieces” (informal group portraits). While this idyllic scene seemingly endorses the cultural and racial hybridity of the region, it also projects a colonial fantasy that erases enslaved labor.
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)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver in memory of her husband, by exchange and gift of George S. Hellman, by exchange
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
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 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2010.59_PS6.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2010.59_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
"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.
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement. You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act. The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals. For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.