Howard Pyle (1853-1911) is among my favorite illustrators. Pirates were one of his favorite subjects and he both authored and illustrated Howard Pyle's Book Of Pirates. This painting, though, stood alone, not illustrating a particular story, although there is a story in the painting — easily interpreted by those familiar with the pirate genre.
|Howard Pyle, "Dead Men Tell No Tales" (1899)|
Pyle described to a correspondent what the picture shows:
My pirate picture may be explained as follows: The captain of the pirate vessel and the first mate called upon three of the crew and together they have carried a chest of treasure up among the sand hills on the Atlantic Coast just below the mouth of Delaware Bay. ....
The pirate captain and the mate had already arranged between them that the fewer who knew such a secret the better. Consequently when the treasure was safely buried...they immediately proceeded to put out of the way the unfortunate witnesses of the secret.
The mate shot two of the men as they stood together resting from their toil—the one with one pistol and the other with the other. The third victim started to run, but the captain running almost parallel with him and cutting him off at the edge of a little bluff, knocked him over with a single clean and well-directed shot.
As the situation now stands the mate has no load in either of his pistols and the captain has one pistol, which is yet loaded.
I do not know what happened after I drew my picture.