The Black Ship Scroll
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1854
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Gift of Mrs. Walter F. Dillingham, in memory of Alice Perry Grew, 1960
Though supposedly an image of Matthew C. Perry (1794–1858), Commodore of the U.S. Navy who landed his ships in Yokosuka Harbor and forced the Japanese government to immediately open its ports for international trade in 1853, this portrait bears closer resemblance to that of a tengu goblin, one of the various supernatural beings (yōkai) discussed elsewhere in this exhibition.
The inscription reads:
True portrait of Perry, Envoy of the Republic of North America. His age is over 60. His face is sallow, eyes slanted, nose prominent. His lips are as though rouged. The hair on his head is partly white and curly. He wears three rings on his fingers. His uniform is of white serge, with raised crests woven in gold braid. Verse said to have been composed by Perry on board ship:
Moon which comes forth / O’er the Sea of Musashi / Distant in the sky: / Thy beams may also shine / On my California.
This portrait, text, and verse are here recorded simply as I was informed, and I cannot vouch for their accuracy.
-Trans. Oliver Statler, The Black Ship Scroll
View info on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)