Sekitori senryô nobori (Rise of the 1,000 ryô wrestler: 関取千両幟) was 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 no Shibai, Osaka. The first kabuki performance in Osaka may have been in 8/1775 at the Kado no Shibai. 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.
The bulk and strength of the wrestler is rendered admirably by Sadamasu. Set against a yellow ground, Tetsugadake's figure nearly fills the entire visual space. The blue and white robe swirls with a dizzying pattern, while the cotton towel (tenugui: 手ぬぐい) pulled taut around his neck, along with the actor's expressive face, suggest the strain Tetsugadake is under as he attempts to manipulate the match for an unwarranted victory.
The blue cartouche bears a simplified script for "Tetsugadake" (鉄ケたけ; the more formal reading would be 鉄が嶽). The right sheet (not included here) depicts Arashi Tokusaburô III as Iwagawa Jirôkichi (岩川次郎吉). The word ryô (両) in the play title was a unit of gold coinage used during the Edo period. Its purpose here was to indicate the high ranking of the wrestlers within the sumô hierarchy, as 1,000 ryô would have been a very substantial purse awarded for a sporting victory in eighteenth-century Japan.
References: Jan van Doesburg Sadamasu web page; WAS-IV, no. 604