Despite Dawson's obvious preference for the graceful though sturdy commercial sailing ships of the nineteenth century, he was also very enamoured of the notorious pirates and buccaneers of the seventeenth century whose exploits attracted so much attention, particularly from cinema film-makers, during Dawson's own lifetime. The likes of Captain Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan, two of the most renowned pirate characters, clearly fascinated him and the apparent glamour of their lawless adventures, especially against Spanish ships and settlements in the West Indies, inspired a string of works.
Usually set in the harsh but friendly glare of the Caribbean sun however, the picture in this catalogue is one of Dawson's much rarer depictions of a pirates' lair by moonlight. Dramatically different to the daytime paintings (cf. Ranson, pp. 51, 71 & 93), the work offered here has more than a hint of menace as the pirates sort their booty under the cloak of darkness. The whole clandestine nature of their world is encapsulated in this rather sinister painting yet it probably portrays the realities of their existence more accurately than the sunlit pictures referred to already.