[modernly supplied title]


tessen ni suzume

Clematis and Sparrows


Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

133 Clematis Theme / 133 テッセン画題

Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I (only edition): 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C

[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.]

Series History and Definitions:
During the two years between mid 1933 and mid 1935 Rakusan produced a series of 180 individual woodblock-printed fan designs. These fan designs are printed as negative images with a single impression of black ink. Although all are actually woodblock prints, this traditional negative-image printing style is called 石摺(り), ishi-zuri, lit. 'stone rubbing', from its superficial resemblance to that technique. Rakusan called this series 篁子生石摺画選, Koushisei Ishizuri Gasen, lit. 'Koushisei's Stone-rubbing Print Selection', but it is usually called here the Fan Series.

Rakusan arranged the Fan Series prints into shared-subject groups typically consisting of one design in each of five different fan silhouette shapes. Each of these groups of Fan Series designs are united by a corresponding polychrome 36 Series design which defines the subject. Each shared-subject Fan Series group and its 36 Series design together comprise a theme (画題, gadai).

Rakusan did not include the Fan Series in his main sequence numbering. Therefore, the original number used for each of the 36 Series prints has been modified to identify the Fan Series members of its theme. The five different fan silhouette shapes have been here assigned arbitrary numbers 1 through 5. To indicate a fan design these shape designations are added to the 36 Series number separated by a hyphen. 133-2 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 2 in the 133 Clematis theme. Like all other designs in this series, 133-2 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.

Theme History:
The 133 Clematis theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The Fan Series prints of the 133 Clematis theme were distributed in early 1935 in installment eleven (of twelve), but the delivery documents for installment eleven remain to be discovered. The series as originally announced would have seen this installment published in November 1934. However, with documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is February 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed.

The signature and seal markings suggest that the designs in the 133 Clematis theme were produced in at least two stages. Two of the five fan designs in this theme (including 133-2) and the 36 Series design 133 have seal C which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934. Despite the early completion of some of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 133 Clematis theme until the following year. It was eventually grouped with other summer season themes nearer to the end of the series. The other three fan designs have seal B which suggests that those designs were carved closer to the time of publication.

The designs of the 133 Clematis theme (and of the immediately preceding 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme) look very different from others in this series. These two themes include most of the examples in this project where Rakusan openly experimented with mining an external source for his designs. The majority of the designs in each of these two themes were taken directly from ones found in the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Painting, 十竹斎書画譜, Jitchikusai Shogafu, a very famous and influential design book (here abbreviated TBS). First produced in China in the 17th century, TBS has been reproduced and reprinted in both China and Japan many times since. Rakusan would likely have used one of the later Japanese translations. In homage to this very well known source, Rakusan presented his Fan Series designs of these two themes in the original TBS style rather than in his own. (This experiment also included a scattering of additional designs in other themes. An article exploring all of Rakusan's adaptations from TBS is in preparation.)

In the 133 Clematis theme, three of the five Fan Series designs (including 133-2) are taken directly from TBS, and the other two are original designs which are only partially in the TBS style. The 36 Series design 133 is also taken in part from TBS, but has been adapted in Rakusan's own style.

The composition of 133-2 is taken directly from the TBS design shown below. In order to adapt the TBS design to this theme, Rakusan substituted clematis for the rice plants, and another loose feather for the fallen piece of rice seed head. The modified design now includes a spray of of clematis with a flower and a bud, and on the ground below two sparrows are fighting and two feathers have come loose. The ground surface is indicated by very rough, parallel, slanted gouges. The flower, bud, and the loose feathers are very finely scribed, and the rest of the elements are in a predominately silhouetted style. The rendering style of the open flower is Rakusan's own, and it is also used in 133-1, 133-4, and the 36 Series design 133. Rakusan otherwise mostly followed the style of the original TBS sketch. The copy illustrated here is in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums:

model for 133-2 (from TBS Harvard 1940.165.59)

The woodblock print of 133-2 was modeled closely on an actual-size original sumi sketch which although lost can be reconstructed by digitally reversing the image of the woodblock print:

133-2 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
Chinese Clematis (Leather Flower), Clematis florida, 鉄線, てっせん, テッセン, tessen, is a common garden flower in Japan. Today, with the many hybrid varieties, all clematis may be referred to as くれまちす, クレマチス, kuremachisu, from the Latin and English names. The original species Rakusan illustrates here has pale blue flowers.

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.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 133 Clematis theme:
133-1 133-3 133-4 133-5 133

Other designs with sparrows:
3 50 110-5 113-3 116-1 122-1