Edo (Shiba Myojin-mae), Japan: Wakasaya Yoichi, 1857. Broadsheet (364 x 245 mm). Censor seal is dated "1857 Fourth Month" (巳四). Three horizontal folds, wrinkled, edges frayed, two holes filed with japanese tissue on verso. This is an original woodblock print; NOT a reproduction! Good. Item #3570
Rare sumo wrestler print of Kimenzan Tanigoro (1826-1871) who at this time was at the beginning of his illustrious career. We have been unable to locate another example of this woodblock print.
The artist was Utagawa Kunisada II, a.k.a. Toyokuni IV (1823-1880). Little is known of his early life, save that he was a pupil of Utagawa Kunisada I. His earliest prints date to 1844; he married his teacher's daughter in 1846 at which time Kunisada I became his adopted father. He inherited the house of Kunisada I ca. 1850-1851, and then took the name Kunisada II (he was also called Toyokuni IV). His prints include over 40 series, mostly of actors (yakusha-e), as well portraits of beauties, illustrations of scenes from literature, erotica, and other subjects. He illustrated nearly 200 books. During the Mejii period (1868-1912) Kunisada II's popularity waned; it would appear to have stopped making prints after 1874.
Our wrestler, Kimenzan Tanigoro, entered sumo in February 1852 in the second highest juryo division and reached the top makuuchi division in January 1857. In this division he won 143 matches and lost only 24, recording a winning percentage of 85.6. He retired in 1870 and died the next year at the age of 45. He was the 13th sumo wrestler to reach the yokozuna rank. As of July 2021, a total of 73 sumo wrestlers have earned this rank.
Kunisada II (Toyokuni IV) made a different print of sumo wrestler Kimenzan Tanigoro, issued in the same year by same publisher, for which see Ukiyo-e Portal Database (National Diet Library Acc. No. NDL-1303934).
We are grateful to Matthew Fraleigh for his translation and research.