The AMICA Library
AMICA Library Year:
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Japanese; 1726-1792 Asia,East Asia,Japan
The sumo wrestler Onogawa Kisaburo of the Eastern Group, with an attendant
Creation Start Date:
Creation End Date:
Materials and Techniques:
Oban; 39.0 x 26.0 cm (untrimmed)Size: Oban 15 1/4 x 10 1/4"
The Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, USA
The Art Institute of Chicago, The Clarence Buckingham Collection
SIGNATURE: Shunsho ga
Onogawa Kisaburo was the young wrestler from Osaka who caused a sensation in Edo with his upset victory over the champion Tanikaze Kajinosuke in the second month of 1782, ending dramatically the latter's unbroken run of sixty-three victories. It was thisevent more than any other that made the Edo public sumo-mad in the late eighteenth century; it may also have prompted Shunsho to begin designing wrestler prints in that same year.Onogawa ranked in the lowly fifth grade of the junior division when he arrived from Osaka, but once in Edo his rise was meteoric: third grade of maegashira rank in 1781; second grade maegashira in the fall of 1783; sekiwake (the second to highest) rank in 1786; finally achieving the top rank of ozeki in 1789 and retaining this until his retirement in 1798. Since this portrait does not give Onogawa's rank, it cannot be more closely dated than about 1782-1786, the period during which Shunsho designed wrestler prints.Onogawa is dressed in street clothes- a purple-striped cotton kimono and long black haori jacket-and is accompanied by an attendant carrying a bundle. In his hand is a folding fan, suggesting that it is summer, and the towel around his shoulders may indicate that the pair are returning from a tournament. Showing a wrestler in street clothes was perhaps analogous to showing actors backstage. The difference in height between the two figures emphasizes Onogawa's imposing size, and in comparison with the attendant's coarse features (the beard seems to be painted in by hand), the wrestler's broad, smooth face looks positively handsome. Indeed Onogawa seems to have attracted the romantic attentions of many female fans by his resemblance to the contemporary Kabuki heartthrob Ichikawa Monnosuke II. A year after his defeat of Tanikaze, Onogawa married a geisha called Yae from the Yoshiwara pleasure district. He was even featured as a character in a Kabuki play.The indigo blue background is still largely unfaded and - unusual among eighteenth-century prints- the borders remain untrimmed on all sides.
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