Brunias's work for Sir William Young was painted to support his patron's mission, the sale of estates on the Ceded Islands to British settlers. Brunias exhibited Dominican subjects at the Royal Academy and issued prints of West Indies subjects to proliferate the message, as artist and patron shuttled between London and the West Indies on their mission in the late 1770s. As here, in this painting of African slaves dancing in Dominica, under the British flag, Brunias presents an attractive vision of harmony and security.
After some years of employment by Robert Adam, who had first taken on Brunias as an architectural draughtsman in Rome in 1756, Brunias accompanied Sir William Young as draughtsman to Barbados in 1764. Young had been appointed President of the Commission for the Sale of Lands in the Ceded Islands of Dominica, St Vincent, Grenada, and Tobago (the recently captured Southern Caribbees) in 1764, and was appointed first British Governor of Dominica in 1770. Brunias's work from this time on concentrates on subjects in the West Indies, in particular in Dominica, St Vincent (where Young had purchased land), Saint Christopher and Barbados, painted for his patron and for the numerous white oligarchs who ran estates on the islands. Brunias appears to have returned to England in 1773 and was resident in Soho when he exhibited Dominican subjects at the Royal Academy in 1777 and 1779. First editions of engravings after his West Indian pictures were 'Published by the Proprietor, No. 7 Broad Street, Soho' (the address from which he submitted his two R.A. exhibits in 1779) in 1779-80. He returned to work in the West Indies in the early 1780s (Dominica and St Vincent were returned to Britain by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783) and settled there until his death in Roseau, Dominica, in April 1796.
His work has only recently been the subject of scholarship, most notably in 'Taxonomy and Agency in Brunias's West Indian Paintings' in B.F. Tobin, Picturing Imperial Power: colonial subjects in eighteenth-century British painting, Durham, N.C., and London, 1999, pp. 139-173, and 'Marketing Mulâtresses in Agostino Brunias's West Indian Scenes' in K.D. Kris, Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement, Picturing the British West Indies 1700-1840, New Haven and London, 2008, pp.36-69. Tate Britain acquired its first work by the artist in 2014 ('A Negroes' dance in the island of Dominica', Christie's South Kensington, 25 April 2012, lot 276) one of two works by Brunias exhibited in Artist and Empire at Tate Britain in 2015-16.