[click to see whole image]
The image you see here is taken from Lennox Honychurch’s fine historical website devoted to Caribbean history; this comes specifically from a page devoted to an interesting painter of St. Vincent’s island, Agostino Brunias.
In fact, these miniature images were painted on buttons, buttons on a waistcoat said to have belonged to ‘Toussaint L’Ouverture, the liberator of Haiti [, and ] replicas of Brunias prints miniaturized on each button, probably in France.’
I found this set of Caribbean images by accident, and saw to my even greater surprise that Brunias had painted one of the figures I’d been reading over the past few weeks, Sir William Young, 2nd Baronet, whose entire family figures in the history of these islands between the 18th and 19th centuries. (See Honychurch’s description)
One of my inspirations for doing this was a post by Slawkenbergius, who announces the appearance of the William & Mary Quarterly special issue (April 2007) devoted to the intersections of american and post-colonial studies:
Slawkenbergius is not especially thrilled with these developments, but I did appreciate David Armitage’s statement about the potential gains of post-colonial approaches for the historical study of state-formation and -expansion:
The great advantage of Greene’s postcolonial perspective is that it reveals the common imperial features that spanned what have conventionally been seen as the colonial and national eras. The United States was—or rather were—born into a world of empires; little wonder, then, that the land-hungry, westward-expanding, federal Republic should have taken on many of the features of the imperial state that had given birth to it and also of its imperial neighbors and contemporaries. The world of states today emerged decisively only in the last fifty years in the aftermath of decolonization, though its roots lie in the American and Latin American revolutions. Scholars should not project its peculiar features onto eras when states were only one among many competing forms of corporate human association. Taking that knowledge into account allows historians to uncouple nationhood from statehood and to reverse the nationalist teleology that informed much American historical writing. It will also have the salutary effect of bringing American history into closer parallel with developments in Latin American and South Asian history, both of which have tended to stress continuity rather than rupture in the passage from the colonial to the postcolonial state.
Looking at these paintings of ‘Caribs’ and others produced by an Italian ‘draughtsman’ employed by an English aristocrat and a Scottish architect, it’s hard to say what national history they belong to, especially when these same images end up being worn by L’Ouverture, liberator of Haiti, and later copied and mass-produced by French workmen.