Utagawa Sadahide (Japanese, 1807–1873)
Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper
14 x 9 3/4 in. (35.6 x 24.8 cm), 14 x 19 3/8 in. (35.6 x 23.8 cm), 14 x 10 7/8 in. (35.6 x 27.6 cm)
Bequest of William S. Lieberman, 2005 (2007.49.131a–c)
The unexpected arrival of the American Commodore Matthew Perry (17941858) in Tokyo in 1853 truly astonished the Japanese people, who had been isolated from the rest of the world for more than 200 years, since the national seclusion act of 1639. Rapidly following Perry's visit, the nation's doors opened to the West, the feudal government of the shoguns collapsed, and the modern age was ushered in.
Foreigners visiting Tokyo from "the five nations"England, the Netherlands, France, Russia, and the United Stateswere restricted to living in Yokohama, a port city on Tokyo Bay. Their physical appearance, apparel, and ways of life were subjected to intense scrutiny and became the popular theme for so-called Yokohama prints. In this imaginary scene, a Western merchant's family relaxes in a European-style residence. Western ships like the ones that frequented Tokyo Bay can be glimpsed through the windows.