PERRY SCROLL. – PERRY, Matthew C., Commodore. Japanese scroll depicting one of General Perry’s Expeditions to Japan, late 19th century.
Scroll of joined sheets measuring 17 ¼ x 135 ½ in. (437 x 3432 mm). Ink and watercolor; captions in Japanese. 2 portraits (Perry and Commander Henry A. Adams), 9 figures from the expedition in various dress, Perry’s steam frigate the Powhatan, a map of Edo Bay, and another of his ship with particular attention paid to riggings and canon; on wooden rollers; modern wooden box.
Commodore Matthew Perry’s first visited Japan on July 8th, 1853. He went to the Japanese capital, Edo (now Tokyo), and made demands. He demanded that ports be opened to Americans, that prisoners be treated well and given back, etc. The Japanese rejected his demands and Perry withdrew from Japan knowing he would return. He returned for the second visit in the Spring of 1854 to Kanagawa, where, and at which time, he signed the Treaty of Amity and Friendship, opening Japan to American trade. Much of this was the intention of Commodore Perry who arrived with the most modern warships carrying cannon, pistols, and other marvels of American technology. The Japanese called the American vessels the "Black Ships" because the hulls were black and the ships belched black smoke. The extant Black Ship scrolls were one way these marvels were recorded, some concentrating on the appearance and personal habits of the Americans, some on their military formations, and others on their military technology. The first two paintings in ink wash are painted in the Japanese style depict Perry and Commander Henry A. Adams, his second-in-command. They are shown as tengu (goblins), with wiry hair, evil looking eyes, and scowling faces. This could highlight the notion that the Americans were not in Japan to compromise, but rather to take by force whatever they needed to open and benefit from Japanese trade.