Military Exercises


In the summer of 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy visited Japan, bearing a letter from U.S. President Millard Fillmore demanding certain concessions from the Japanese court. Perry’s visit was followed by the conclusion of the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa, which opened Japanese ports to U.S. trade. This painting by an anonymous Japanese artist shows visiting U.S. troops conducting military exercises. It is the fourth panel of a 12-panel silk-bound scroll from the collections of the Brown University Library, and is similar to other scrolls from the period, such as the Black Ship Scroll owned by the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The artist uses blue-and-white banners to fence in the American soldiers. The artist may have chosen to use blue instead of black because black and white were the imperial colors of the Tokugawa shogunate. The house on the left may have been the Treaty House, where the Treaty of Kangawa was signed. The painting is from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library, the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms.

Last updated: December 18, 2014