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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

(R) Nakamura Shikan II as Onigatake & (L) Ichikawa Ebizô V as Akitsushima in Sekitori nidai kagami (Mirror of the second generation wrestler), Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
Artist seal: Hokuei
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
372 x 510 cm
Very good
Good (right sheet retains a 5mm-wide left-hand margin with an album fold; slight fading, mostly of purple; very slight soil at edges; two tiny insect holes at far edges of each sheet; very slight horizontal crease top center on right sheet)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE12)


We have so far been unable to identify the plot of this play, Sekitori nidai kagami ("Mirror of the second-generation wrestler": 関取二代鑑). It appears to related to an Edo production titled Sekitori nidai no shôbuzuke (Champion sumô wrestlers victorious in two generations: 関取二代勝負附), whichi included the roles of the wrestlers Onigadake Dôemon (鬼ヶ嶽洞右衛門) and Akitsushima Kuniemon (秋津島國右衛門).

Both plays might have been related to another drama, Sekitori senryô nobori (Rise of the 1,000 ryô wrestler: 関取千両幟), written in nine acts by Chikamatsu Hanji (1725-83) and others for the ningyô jôruri (puppet theater: 人形淨瑠璃), premiering in 8/1767 at the Takemoto Theater, Osaka. The first kabuki performance in Osaka may have been in 8/1775 at the Kado Theater. In fact, according to a surviving tsuji banzuke (advance publicity playbills posted at intersections: 辻番付) now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Acc #11.28371), a production in Edo at the Ichimura-za in 5/1835 had both Sekitori senryô nobori and Sekitori nidai no shôbuzuke on the same program, presumably to offer playgoers a rare opportunity to compare the dramas in a single (long) day.

In Sekitori senryô nobori, two patrons of rival wrestlers attempt to raise money to ransom a beautiful courtesan, Nishikigi of the Osakaya, so they wager on a match between their wrestlers. Tetsugadake Dazaemon, fearing he will lose, asks Iwagawa Jirokichi to throw the match in exchange for his help in raising the money for Iwagawa's patron. As this would guarantee the rescue of Nishikigi, Iwagawa agrees. His wife Otowa learns of the plot, however, and cannot accept that her husband would ruin his reputation for his patron. She therefore raises the money in secret by the only means available — selling herself to a brothel. As the wrestling match is about to begin, Iwagawa is told that an anonymous source has provided the money. He is therefore free to compete unfettered, defeat his opponent, and capture his ranking. After his victory, he is shocked to learn that the donor was his wife Otowa.


In a design by Utagawa Hiroshige for Sekitori nidai kagami in his series Chûkô adauchi zue (Pictures of loyalty and vengeance: 忠孝仇討圖繪) circa 1844-45, Onigatake holds a sandal above a seated Akitsushima, preparing to hit him — such an act of aggression would have been a terrible insult and a clear challenge to Akitsushima's honor. In Hokuei's diptych, Onigatake also brandishes the sandal while Akitsushima pulls up his sleeve in a gesture of defiance. Presumably, the two will meet later settle their score.

The actors' roles and names are given in cartouches drawn as gyôji no uchiwa (judge's fan: 御璽の團扇) used by sumô referees.

This impression is comparable to the one in the Waseda University collection; both have a dark brown pigment for Ebizô's underrobe (another edition is known with a light pink color for the robe). This is an uncommon diptych in Hokuei's oeuvre, known by only a few examples.

References: WAS I-4, no. 508