青梅に子雀 (初夏)

ao ume ni ko suzume (shoka)

Green Plums and Little Tree Sparrows (Early Summer)

青梅に子スズメ (初夏)


Original Number

50


ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR THIS DESIGN
Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I: 楽山居 Raku-zan Kyo + 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.]

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 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. The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I. No later edition copies of 50 are currently known.

Close examination of 50 reveals two printing flaws on either side of the lowest chick in the center of the design. There, leaves which should have been overprinted in green have remained a pale tan. These areas of the green printing block were apparently accidentally carved away. Because of the complexity of the design, the incorrectly printed areas are not immediately obvious, and Rakusan did not bother to recarve and correct. However, the mistake likely contributed to his decision not to reprint this design in later editions.

Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA; (1951) 51.2483 [not illustrated online].

Species Illustrated:
Plum, Prunus 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 スズメ, suzume, where it refers only to this species. However, 雀, suzume, remains a very common general name for any sort of small sparrow or sparrow-like bird in modern Japanese. In this composition the mother sparrow 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 mother 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 is not possible.


Related Designs:
Other designs with sparrows:
3 110-5 113-3 116-1 122-1 133-2