This rare portrait of a known vessel by Thornely is doubly interesting due to the fact that it depicts the unique steam-sailer U.S.S. CHICAGO, one of only four American warships of this type ever built. Classified "Protected Cruisers", they were the first steel hulled warships commissioned by the U.S. Navy and marked the end of iron hulls used for U.S. warships.
Known as the ABCD ships from their names ATLANTA, BOSTON, CHICAGO and DOLPHIN, these four vessels, due to their slowness and prohibitive cost, were soon retired. Authorized in 1883, the 4,500 ton CHICAGO was the largest of the four. She was replaced in 1889 by a modern cruiser bearing the same name. This fine painting by Charles Thornely is one of only a very few images, photographic or otherwise that exist of this vessel.
Showing her anchored at Gravesend, England, Thornely has given the scene the muted hues of early evening bathed in the warm luminism of a fading sunset. The almost surreal setting creates an aura of nostalgia that surrounds the ship and her unique place in history.