The Buccaneer Was a Picturesque Fellow
Date: 1905
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 30 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (77.5 x 49.5 cm) frame: 33 3/4 x 23 3/4 x 2 in. (85.7 x 60.3 x 5.1 cm)
Illustration Citation: "The Fate of a Treasure Town," by Howard Pyle, in Harper's Monthly Magazine, December 1905
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, 1912
Object Number: 1912-31
About: Howard Pyle’s pirates, which he based on historical and folkloric reports, often have the glamorous yet threatening demeanor of this buccaneer. His stance and expression are the epitome of the romantic outlaw. With weapons at the ready and cloaked in brilliant red against his domain of sea and sky, he keeps a wary eye for intruders. His languid and bejeweled companion guards the treasure. Although there was little visual record of what pirates actually wore, Pyle invented a dramatic costume from his ample library of historical costumes, creating a look adopted by Hollywood and still used today in films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The word buccaneer is derived from the French word for the meat-smoking device (boucan) used by some Caribbean islanders who later turned to piracy. The story "The Fate of a Treasure Town" provides a glimpse into 17th century piracy in Spanish colonial port towns. These outposts sent their acquired wealth back to the crown on convoys of the Spanish fleet. The ships were often attacked by pirates who would later divide the treasure among themselves.
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