National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Allan Myers AO and Maria Myers AO, 2012
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Gordon Darling Foundation
Sumo has existed since ancient times with accounts of sumo bouts appearing in Japan’s earliest extant records. Originally an oracular ritual connected with Shinto prayers for the harvest, sumo gradually evolved into a professional spectator sport during the Edo period (1600-1868). Edo period, tournaments were usually held within the grounds of Honjo Ekō-in, a Pure Land Buddhist temple in Edo which still exists in the vicinity of the modern day Ryōgoku Kokugikan (Ryōgoku Sumo Stadium).
Sumo prints were designed nearly exclusively by artists from Katsukawa School during the period circa 1775-1825. Then for the rest of the Edo period until 1868, and during the Meiji period (1868-1913), the Utagawa School became the major produces with the most productive artist of all being Utagawa Kunisada (Utagawa Toyokuni III).
The four wrestlers that appear in the single figure prints were all active during the middle of the 19th century with three of them appearing in the Kanjin sumo tournament print. Wadagahara and Choōzan appear in crowd on the left side and Kagamiiwa appears as the larger figure wresting in the ring.