Kunisada, Bando Shuka I and Iwai Kumesaburo III in Sumoba

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Bando Shuka I as Hanaregoma and Iwai Kumesaburo III as Nuregami  in the Play Sumoba, 1854. Oban Triptych.

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Another fabulous ensemble triptych by Kunisada. This piece is a representation of the actors in the popular kabuki drama Sumoba… not necessarily a scene, as such. Kunisada uses the bulk of the characters to fill nearly every inch of the space. The vibrant colours and patterns of the costumes tumble all over each other, filling the sheets, clashing and vying for position, spots, stripes, actor mons, demon masks etc. Meanwhile the actors, caught mid-pose, stare out at us, their faces pinned to the chaotic patterns.

The first scene takes place outside a sumo wrestling enclosure in Horie, where the last match of the day is going on between two wrestlers, Nuregami Chogoro, the favorite and certain winner, and the young upstart Hanaregoma Chokichi. When the contest is over the spectators pour out, talking excitedly because Nuregami has lost.

As the story unfolds we find out that the match was thrown. The truth is that Nuregami, a noted wrestler from Osaka, wanted to help his merchant patron, Yamazaki Yogoro, to whose father he was much indebted. Yogoro wanted to win the hand of his favorite geisha girl, Azuma, as his mistress. But Hanaregoma's samurai patron Hiraoka Gozaemon also wanted to buy Azuma from the geisha house. So, hoping to help his merchant patron, Nuregami purposely lost the match so that Hanaregoma would get a promotion and would then owe Nuregami a favour. That favour was that Hanaregoma would try to dissuade his samurai patron from taking Azuma from the geisha house, so that Nuregami's patron could have her. The two wrestlers meet in front of the sumo enclosure. The young bluffing Hanaregoma gets angry when he hears the truth, as he had been elated over his victory, believing he had won by his own power. Nuregami tries to placate him, but Hanaregoma shows no sign of reconciliation. (Summary from Jeff Blair's Kabuki Page.)

The other actors portrayed here are: Arashi Kichisaburo III as Akitsushima (centre); Arashi Rikan III as Tetsugatake and Nakamura Fukusuke I as Iwakawa (left). A superb and energetic print, colour, impression and condition are all very fine… a great print. Another print of the same scene can be viewed here at the Toshidama Gallery. A copy of the print is held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Publisher Otaya Takichi (Hori Takichi).

75 x 36.5 cm.