Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal A
[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.]
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 50 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 50th 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 50 was in May 1931 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment twenty-five (of fifty). However, additional edition I printings of 50 may have continued until as late as 1933. No later edition copies of 50 are currently known.
Unusually, 50 was printed in two different morphs during edition I. The complexity of the composition caused serious problems for the assistant who carved the wooden blocks. As a result, there are several areas of printing flaws where the intended final colors were not printed; and either uninked paper or earlier underprintings remain visible.
In the edition I-a morph (upper illustration above) three significant areas of printing flaws directly in the center of the composition were corrected with green inks. In order to obscure these and the other discrepancies glitter has been added over all (omitting only the birds) using an overprinted glue block. Copies from the first print run of 50 are all of the edition I-a morph.
In the edition I-b morph (lower illustration above), none of the flaws were corrected. The two most obvious errors are the leaves immediately on each side of the head of the lowest chick, which should be green (as they are in the edition I-a morph), and which instead show one of the yellow underprintings. (See detail images below.)
Note that the example images on this subpage were photographed under different conditions, and the other colors are more closely similar than they appear here.
Copies in Public Collections:
50 (edition I-a morph detail)
50 (edition I-b morph detail)
|[leaf faults repaired with green]
||[leaf faults not repaired; underprint yellow revealed]
Edition I: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA; (1951) 51.2483 [not illustrated online].
spp., 梅, ume
, is a favorite Japanese tree with many hybridized and selected varieties grown both for flowers and for fruit. Although Rakusan frequently illustrated flowering plums, 50 is the only design to show fruit. [Links to exclusively flowering plum designs can be found at number 4
in this series.]
Here, 青梅, ao-ume
, is literally 'green plum' where the descriptor means both 'green (unripe)' and 'green (color)'.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus, is today written in Japanese ornithological texts as すずめ, スズメ, suzume, where it refers only to this species. However, the original kanji, 雀, suzume, remains a very common general name for any sort of small sparrow or sparrow-like bird in modern Japanese. Eurasian Tree Sparrow is one of only a few species which Rakusan included in two different designs in the 100 Series, in 50 and in 3 (see below).
The composition of 50 includes an adult sparrow who is feeding four chicks which have fledged and left the nest but are still non-volant and dependent on parental care. In the mouth of the parent sparrow is at least one insect. It is difficult to make out more than a segmented body and two potential legs. It is likely that closer identification of the prey is not possible. Plumage of adult birds is similar, so the sex of the parent is indeterminate.