Click here for a comprehensive look at the entire 30-foot “Black Ship Scroll” featuring the often humorous interactions between Perry’s crew and local residents of Shimoda.

Photographing a Courtesan
The “Black Ship Scroll,”  painted in 1854, featured witty renderings of crewmen and ordinary Japanese engaged in everyday activities.

At least five versions of the scroll are known to exist. Anonymous artists introduced subtle differences in the dress and demeanor of participants in the scenes depicted.

In this rendering of a photography session, the individual being
  photographed is usually a courtesan. (The protruding tongues of the Americans suggest they were not immune to her charms.)  

In one variation, however, the sitters have become a samurai and, presumedly, his wife.  Samurai always wore their swords on the left side.  Since the daguerreotype produced a mirror image, the samurai has placed his swords on his right, in order to produce a proper image.
Photographing a Courtesan, detail from the 1854 “Black Ship Scroll,” variant versions held by Honolulu Academy of Art, Japan Society of Northern California, and Ryosenji Treasure Museum

On viewing images from the historical record: click here.

Black Ships & Samurai © 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A project of professors John W. Dower & Shigeru Miyagawa
Design and production by Ellen Sebring, Scott Shunk, and Andrew Burstein
Black Ships & Samurai II Encounters: Facing East Encounters: Facing West Black Ships: Facing East Black Ships: Facing West Portraits: Facing East Portraits: Facing West Gravestone Courtesan The Black Ship Scroll