紅梅に青啄木 (初春)

koubai ni aogera (shoshun)

Red Plum and Green Woodpecker (Early Spring)

コウバイにアオゲラ (初春)


Original Number

22


ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR THIS DESIGN
Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I: 楽山居 Raku-zan Kyo + Seal A
Edition III: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal B

[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article. For edition characteristics applicable to this series as a whole, see the Edition article.]

Design History:
This woodblock print was produced from an original painting on silk dating from the late 1920s whose current location is unknown. The indentification of this design as number 22 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 22nd design in his series of one hundred woodblock prints called 楽山花鳥畫譜, Rakuzan Kachou Gafu, lit. 'Rakusan's Flower and Bird Print Series'. Initial edition I publication of 22 was in March 1930 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment eleven (of fifty). However, additional edition I reprintings of 22 may have continued until 1933.

No edition II reprintings of 22 are currently known. Edition III reprintings of 22 can only be approximately dated from between 1948 and 1955.

The edition I first print run of 22 contains a huge printing mistake that almost no one has recognized or remarked upon. An uncirculated Rakusan model painting typically has no signature or seal, and the intended orientation for 22 must have been unclear to Rakusan's then-new helpers. The model image was accidentally inverted, and 22 ended up being printed upside down from the way Rakusan intended. Of course the woodpecker can cling to all sides of a branch and does not look out of place either way. However, with the image inverted the tree branches now taper in the wrong direction and the few tiny green leaves "hang" up instead of down. The copy of 22 illustrated above is a typical edition I inverted image, and it is by far the most numerous and familiar version of 22.

22alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject was issued the month before the initial printing of 22 as a preview advertisement. 22alt may have contributed to the error in printing 22 because it shows the woodpecker on top of the branch rather than under it. However, 22alt is oriented correctly and in it the branches point up and taper up, and the leaves hang down:

22alt

Doubtless chagrined, but constrained by his tight schedule, Rakusan was persuaded to issue the inverted version without comment. However, decades later when the opportunity came to reprint 22 in the much smaller edition III, Rakusan equally quietly corrected the inversion. When the title-caption, watermark, romaji and kanji signatures, and the seal are correctly oriented, the edition III image is "upside down" when compared to an edition I copy. However, it is actually edition I which is inverted, and edition III is the only edition printed as Rakusan originally intended. In edition III Rakusan also relocated the woodblock-printed signature and seal from the lower right to the lower left (which was formerly the upper right in the previous orientation). In the edition III copy of 22 below, Rakusan has also added a partially indistinct romaji signature at lower left.

22 (edition III - the originally intended orientation)

Species Illustrated:
Japanese Plum-Apricot (usually called Plum), Prunus mume, 梅, うめ, ウメ, ume, is a Japanese native flowering fruit tree. It has been extensively hybridized and selected, and there are many forms and colors. As one of the earliest blooming trees, it is a beloved cultural symbol of the turning of the seasons when it blooms in the winter and early spring. Although most wild trees have white flowers, a few have varying amounts of red pigment in the wood, shoots, and flowers; and this trait has been encouraged in breeding. These pigmented forms are collectively called by a different name, Red Plum, 紅梅, こうばい, コウバイ, kou-bai, lit. 'red plum', but are actually the same species. (The descriptor 紅 may be read either as beni or as kou, and can mean a wide range of colors from crimson-red through rose to pale pink, depending on the context. Although conventionally translated into English as Red Plum, many familiar 紅梅 flowers are actually pink.)

Many of the Rakusan plum designs are in black and white, and without additional information it is impossible to determine whether or not most of them are red plum or the original white variety. In the related designs listed below only those definitely identifiable as red plum are included, but doubtless several more belong there as well. [The full array of Rakusan woodblock print plum designs can be found at this link to the subpage for design 4 in this series, where there are additional links to all of the other plum design subpages.]

Japanese Green Woodpecker, Picus awokera, 青啄木(鳥), あおげら, アオゲラ, ao-gera, lit. 'green-woodpecker', is a common Japanese endemic species. The scientific name is derived from an older spelling of the same Japanese name. In 22 Rakusan shows a single bird with characteristics intermediate between a typical male and female, but the bird is probably intended to be male. Rakusan used the same species in 28 where a young male is being taken by a hawk.


Related Designs:
22alt

Other designs definitely with red plum:
89 123-1 123

Other designs with green woodpecker:
28

All Flowering Plum designs: [Note: Flowering plum Fan Series theme assignments are tentative and are subject to change with new information.]
4 22alt 22 63 89
122-1 122-2 122-3 122-4 122-5 122
123-1 123-2 123-3 123-4 123-5 123
124-1 124-2 124-3 124-4 124-5 124