Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)
Kawazu Sukeyasu (河津祐安) and Matano Kagehisa (俣野景久) at the sumō tournament in the presence of Minamoto no Yoritomo - this is the center panel of a triptych
10.25 in x 15.25 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Ichiyūsai Kunisada ga
Publisher: Iseya Magobei
(Marks 150 - seal closest to 15-018)
Museum of Fine Arts - Boston: This earlier image by Shun'ei is the model for Kunisada's wrestlers
Beaux-arts de Paris
Royal Museums of Art and History, Belgium (via Cultural Japan)
Edo-Tokyo Museum "The sumo wrestling bout held on Mount Akazawa in 1177 was intended as a diversion for Minamoto no Yoritomo, yet ironically this event led to the chain of events that resulted in the vendetta of the Soga brothers. The story culminates with a reluctant Yoritomo ordering Soga no Goro's decapitation..."
Quoted from: Japanese Warrior Prints 1646-1905 by James King and Yuriko Iwakiri, p. 232. (Their title for the full triptych is 'The Wrestling Match Between Kawazu no Saburō and Matano no Gorō in the Presence of Minamoto no Yoritomo and Ōba Kagechika'. They date the triptych to ca. 1813-15.)
Sebastian Izzard wrote of this famous match in Kunisada's World: "This celebrated match, refereed by Ebina Gempachi, took place during a hunting expedition organized by the general Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1176 near Mt. Akazawa. Matano Gorō Kagehisa, who had some professional experience as a wrestler, challenged members of the party and defeated them one by one. He then challenged Kawazu Saburō Sukeyasu, who, after first refusing, pushed Matano back and threw him to the ground. Matano claimed that he had tripped and a rematch was held. Kawazu twisted his foot behind Matano and toppled him, a trick throw still known as the kawazu [the kawazu-gake 河津掛] in his honor."
Lawrence Bickford in his book on sumo wrestling as presented in traditional woodblock print form notes that this image by Kunisada was an important breakthrough for this artist. It was his first foray into the field of sumo images.
The Kawazu-Matano match which took place in the 12th century was of epic significance to the history of sumo. Kunisada's teacher, Toyokuni I, had produced in ca. 1803-04 a somewhat staid and formulaic triptych based on this ancient event, but here he substituted prominent kabuki actors for the onlookers and even the referee was a courtesan/onnagata - an historical impossibility.
Instead of looking to his master for inspiration Kunisada went back to the work of Katsukawa Shunei who produced in 1796-97 an exact model for the two struggling combatants.
The camp curtains in the background are decorated with the sasrindō, Minamoto no Yoritomo's personal crest.
The Shun'ei print mentioned above as a model for this Kunisada print shows two different sumo wrestlers, Banjaku and Narutaki. Narutaki is using the Kawazu-defensive-hold on his opponent. This was "...the wrestling-hold which was for the first time put into practice by Kawazu Saburō Sukeyasu in his famous fight against Matano Gorō Kagehisa in 1176.... In early 1177, not long after the wrestling match, Kawazu was assassinated, while his father was severely wounded in the attempt." Matano may have assisted in this assault because he had held a "...vicious hatred of Kawazu from the very moment he lost the wrestling bout at mount Akazawa.
After the murder of Kawazu his sons Sukenari and Tokimune, known as the Soga-brothers, swore to take revenge on the slayer of their father, according to the custom of the time."
Source and quotes from: What About Kunisada? by Jan van Doesburg, p. 29.
The whole triptych is illustrated in Ukiyo-e dai musha-e ten - 浮世絵大武者絵展 - (The Samurai World in Ukiyo-e), edited by Yuriko Iwakiri, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2003, #115, p. 48. [This example is from the Kanagawa Museum for Cultural History.]
In an early kabuki production of the encounter on Mt. Akazawa the poet Hezutsu Tōsaku wrote of "The kabuki actor Ōtani Hiroji [I] 大谷広治 (1696–1747), three generations before the current bearer of that name, had a very dark complexion and was nick-named “black Jitchō” (黒十町). He excelled in the delivery of his lines. Although he could not read a word, he related historical events and used ancient phrases without sounding as if he were repeating what others had read out for him. When he spoke of the wrestling match of Matano [Kagehisa] 股野景久 (?–1183), he raised his voice with the lines, “And lo! He was thrown three inches deep into the black earth of Mt. Akazawa 赤沢,” and then, in a lower and softer voice, he continued, “Ah! He felt as if he had lived his life in vain!”56 Listeners were deeply moved and shouted their approval." Translated by Gerald Groemer.
There is are other copies of this print in the Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale and the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
sumō (相撲) (genre)
Historical - Social - Ephemera (genre)
Iseya Magobei (伊勢屋孫兵衛) (publisher)
Soga brothers (曾我兄弟) (genre)