The Sumo Wrestler Kagamiiwa of the West Side


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. This sumo-e (pictures of sumo wrestlers), by Utagawa Toyokuni II, is from the series Tamari-iri (Great sumo wrestlers waiting for their match). It is a vertical ōban (large format), which was the standard size for commercial prints by the 19th century. The large physique of the wrestler takes up most of the page, helping to exaggerate his muscles and body lines. Sumo wrestling became a professional sport in the early Edo period and was a popular entertainment in urban areas, along with Kabuki. The development of sumo-e coincided with the rising popularity of the sport, which reached its peak around 1780–1800.

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1 print : woodcut, color ; 37.6 x 25.9 centimeters


  • From the series: Sumō han'ei tamari iri no zu : Great sumo wrestlers waiting for their match (Tamari-iri).

Last updated: May 23, 2012