Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal A
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.
For edition and dating characteristics applicable to the entire series, see the Editions article.]
Indentification of this design as number 103 is original to Rakusan who designated this woodblock print as the 103rd design published in his main sequence.
However, 103 is actually the third of thirty-six woodblock prints in Rakusan's second main sequence series,
篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen
, lit. 'Koushisei's Print Selection' (usually called here the 36 Series
The woodblock print of 103 was adapted from an actual-size original painting on silk created in late 1933.
All of the original prototype paintings for this series are currently in a single private collection.
[Images of this painting 103-0 will eventually be posted here.]
103 was the third of a contemporaneous group of six 36 Series designs whose wooden blocks were carved within the last half of 1933 and were printed and published in early 1934.
Like most 36 Series designs 103 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy.
Therefore, for 103 only a single extended edition I (which includes reprintings both before and after World War II) can be distinguished.
It is usually only possible to date an individual loose print of 103 with edition I markings by listing approximate potential ranges of 1934-1941 and 1948-1955.
The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I (except that it has a later-added city-name stamp in the lower left corner).
The earliest 36 Series prints were delivered tipped into recessed wells of presentation sheets embossed in their lower margins with the series title.
Because all early edition I prints once had these presentation sheets, a copy which retains its presentation sheet must have been printed during the 1930s.
After his supply of presentation sheets was exhausted, Rakusan distributed subsequently-reprinted copies loose.
A limited number of leftover earlier-printed copies of some designs on presentation sheets were still being distributed shortly after the war, but by then most designs were only available as loose sheets.
However, absence of presentation sheets is not diagnostic of later printings because many early prints have subsequently been detached from theirs.
The Rakusan project which produced 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen
, resulted in two related series of woodblock prints.
Each print of the 36 Series
is intimately connected to a group of prints with the same subjects in the Fan Series
Together these subject-related prints in the two series constitute a theme.
Each theme typically consists of a quintet of monochrome Fan Series
designs (one design in each of the five fan shapes), plus one polychrome,
design which illustrates the theme subject.
The theme is labeled here by the original Rakusan number of its 36 Series
design followed by the subject.
103 is the 36 Series
design of the 103 Tree-peony
The 103 Tree-peony theme is the first of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The 36 Series design 103 and four of the five Fan Series designs have seal A which indicates carving dates around the third quarter of 1933. The remaining Fan Series design has seal H, a minor seal from the same seal A period. It was during this time that Rakusan was making his initial plans for the two series. He created and carved all of the designs in the first six themes (including those of the 103 Tree-peony theme) plus a scattering of other designs weeks or even months before publication of the series was to begin.
The Fan Series woodblock prints of the 103 Tree-peony theme were printed during January 1934 and were distributed January 20, 1934 in the first series delivery, installment one (of twelve). On the delivery documents Rakusan used the theme subject title 牡丹, botan, 'tree-peony', which is also the title of 36 Series design 103 published at the same time.
Later in the series Rakusan created a second, similar, tree-peony theme.
That later 117 Winter Tree-peony theme is also perfectly regular in arrangement and content, but each of those designs bears later markings.
The designs in the two tree-peony themes also differ in execution with the petals in the 103 Tree-peony theme more silhouette-like,
and those in the 117 Winter Tree-peony theme are filled with scribed parallel lines.
The 117 Winter Tree-peony theme represents a separate later addition to the series which (apart from its related subject) is entirely distinct from the 103 Tree-peony theme.
At least some of the designs in the 103 Tree-peony theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 10 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).
Similarly, the designs in the 117 Winter Tree-peony theme were adapted from sketches for design 11.
Tree-peony, Paeonia suffruticosa,
牡丹, ぼたん, ボタン, botan
, now comes in many colors, shapes, and varieties.
Winter-blooming Tree-peony, Paeonia suffruticosa
, 寒牡丹, kan-botan
; or 冬牡丹, fuyu-botan
both lit. 'winter tree-peony', is the earliest-blooming variety of tree-peony and typically begins to bloom before the winter snow has melted.
Therefore, to protect the new growth the plants are typically staked and often protected from the weight of the snow by a woven grass mat as a kind of open tent structure.