The birthplace of the United States Navy, the Delaware River Harbor of Philadelphia is full of historic landmarks and fascinating nautical elements in this large panoramic scene by James Hamilton. An location important to the formation of the American Revolution as well, its prominence as one of the first important seaports of North America is sometimes overlooked today.
Hamilton puts forth artistic excellence to create a dramatic atmosphere for this painting. Storm driven water, a lightning flash, brilliant blue sky and illuminated rays of sunlight all co-exist in the clouded sky. This heightens the interest in the architectural details and the challenge of the actions on the water. Shown at the headland, Sparks Shot Tower competes with the height gained by the boom crane over the Philadelphia Navy Yard and the glistening bell-holding spire of the famous Christ Church, all in the Southwark District of the “City of Brotherly Love”. Founded by Quakers, it was one of the first multinational settlements of America, and quickly a large part of the fast growing American shipbuilding industry. More than 26 master ship carvers lived in the port city. The first congressionally ordered U.S. Warship, the 44-Gun Frigate UNITED STATES, would launch out of the Navy yard in here 1797, months in front of Baltimore’s CONSTELLATION and Boston’s CONSTITUTION. There are numerous ships, both naval and merchant, shown in the busy harbor, with one of the great frigates near the Naval Yard. This is an extremely fine and rare harbor scene by the American artist.
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