[modernly supplied title]


nasu ni suzumushi

Eggplant and Bell Crickets


Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

109 Eggplant Theme

Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I: 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 and dating characteristics applicable to the entire series, see the Editions article.]

Print History:
Indentification of this design as number 109 is original to Rakusan who designated this woodblock print as the 109th design published in his main sequence. However, 109 is actually the ninth 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 109 was adapted from an actual-size original painting on silk. All of the original prototype paintings for this series are currently in a single private collection.
[Images of this painting 109-0 will eventually be posted here.]

Like most 36 Series designs 109 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Therefore, for 109 only a single extended edition I (which includes potential reprintings both before and after World War II) can be distinguished. It is usually only possible to date an individual loose print of 109 with edition I markings by listing approximate potential ranges of 1934-1941 and 1948-1955. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I.

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 World War II, 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.

Theme History:
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 consists of a quintet of monochrome Fan Series designs (one design in each of the five fan shapes), plus one polychrome, 36 Series 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. 109 is the 36 Series design of the 109 Eggplant theme.

The 109 Eggplant theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Only one of the five Fan Series designs have seal C which indicates a carving date between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. However, 36 Series design 109 and the other four Fan Series designs all have seal B which indicates a later carving period close to the time of publication. (The 109 Eggplant theme is unusual in being the theme with the most designs with seal B.)

The sole vegetable theme, 109 Eggplant, was used to finish out installment three, and the three fruit themes (110, 111, and 112) immediately followed as as installment four. The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 109 Eggplant theme were distributed in early 1934 in installment three (of twelve). The delivery documents for installment three remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either March, April, or (most probably) May 1934. The individual woodblock prints would have been printed earlier in the same month as their distribution.

Unlike some themes which have designs adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of the earlier 100 Series, there is no demonstrable link here. However, Rakusan used eggplants in other paintings, and would have had eggplant studies in his lost sketchbooks.

Species Illustrated:
Eggplant (Aubergine), Solanum melongena, 茄(子), なす(び), ナス(ビ), nasu(bi), is originally not native to Japan. However, it was imported during prehistory as an agricultural crop. Eggplant comes in many varieties, shapes, and colors.

Rakusan's insects are rendered in great detail and are usually identifiable by genus and often by species as well. Here the pair of insects are Bell(-ring) Cricket, Meloimorpha (Homoeogryllus) japonicus, 鈴虫, すずむし,スズムシ, suzu-mushi, lit. 'bell-insect'. It is known particularly for its song in Japan, and it features prominently in literature and culture where it is a symbol of autumn.

Also included in 109 are three blades of an unidentifiable grass.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 109 Eggplant theme:
109-1 109-2 109-3 109-4 109-5

Other designs with various kinds of crickets:
16 109-5 112-1 114-2