1762 - ca. 1830
Courtesans Matching with Sumo Wrestlers: Takigawa from the House of Ogiya, kamuro Onami and Menami
(Yukun sumo awase: Ogiya nai, Takigawa Onami, Menami)
signed Shunsen ga, with censor's seal Kiwame (approved) date seal U-san (year of the hare , 3rd month), and publisher's seal Mi (Mikawaya Seiemon), 1807
oban tate-e 15 3/8 by 10 3/8 in., 39.2 by 26.4 cm
The courtesan Takigawa and one of her kamuro (either Onami or Menami, as recorded in the upper left), model their gorgeous clothing from a mitate (parody) series presenting courtesans as though matched with sumo wrestlers. The seated Takigawa looks to her left and holds the edge of her uchikake (formal coat) as it slips off her shoulder. The deep black outer robe decorated with bright pink peonies opens over her knees to reveal an underrobe with a pattern of green bamboo leaves over brown stalks. One of her two purple inner robes has an overlapping rope pattern, the other a subtle stylized chidori (plover) pattern at the bottom. Her yoko-hyogo hairstyle resembling butterfly wings is embellished with numerous hairpins confirming she is courtesan of the highest rank.
Her kamuro (adolescent apprentice), wears a furisode (lit. 'swinging sleeves) kimono decorated with scrolling golden waves over purple seigaiha (stylized waves) and a large yellow obi with a green circular pattern tied at the back. The wave motif is particularly appropriate as the names Onami and Menami can be translated as 'big wave' and 'shallow wave.' Her kimono is adorned with rose-colored fusa (tassels) in the manner of a traditional uniform for a gyoji (sumo referee) and she holds a colorful gunbai (war fan) of the type used by gyoji to signal their decisions during a bout. While courtesans kept their feet bare, this kamuro is allowed the comfort of tabi socks, traditional element of the uniform for a gyoji of a certain rank.
The series title cartouche in the upper right corner is cleverly designed in the shape of a sumo wrestling arena, with its distinctive ring defined by four pillars and canopy above. Of all the myriad of tropes that beauties have been likened to in ukiyo-e, comparing courtesans to sumo wrestlers may be one of the more obscure. Perhaps the space occupied by the courtesan's voluminous robes which fill the composition is similar to the girth of a sumo wrestler, and like a victorious competitor, we may regard Takigawa as a 'champion' of her arena of beauty and style.
(inv. no. 10-5443)
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