The Wrestlers Koyanagi Tsunekichi, Hidenoyama Raigorō, and Arauma Kichigorō

Color woodblock prints: ōban yoko-e hexaptych, 15 x 43⅞ in. (50.2 x 111.4 cm) overall; 1844
Signed: Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga, Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga, and Kunisada aratame nidaime Toyokuni ga (Kunisada, changing his name to Toyokuni II)
Artist’s seal: Ichiyōsai
Censor’s seal: Hama (Hama Yahei)
Publisher: Yorozuya Jūbei 

In this splendid double-size triptych, the massive figures are portrayed in their stylish, boldly patterned, cotton summer robes. Wrestlers were a relatively common sight on the Ryōgoku Bridge, since the main sumo tourneys took place on the grounds of the Ekōin Temple, near its eastern end.  The center figure is Hidenoyama Raigorō (1808–1862), who was declared the ninth yokozuna (grand champion) in 11/1847. He is flanked by Koyanagi Tsunekichi (1817–1858), the ōzeki of the East (Edo), on the right, and Arauma Kichigorō (1815–1854), a sekiwake of the West (Kyoto, Osaka), on the left, holding a cage of fireflies. These three wrestlers were the leading champions of the mid-1840s. This giant triptych was presumably designed to cater to wealthy patrons attending the summer tourney of 1844, as confirmed by: the censor’s seal of Hama Yahei, a nanushi (low-ranking government official), who worked in the eighth month of that year; the summer fireworks in the background; the hot-season cotton kimono worn by the wrestlers; and the large paper fans in their hands.

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