Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ 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.]
Indentification of this design as number 134 is original to Rakusan who designated this woodblock print as the 134th design published in his main sequence.
However, 134 is actually the thirty-fourth 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 134 was adapted from an actual-size original painting on silk which was carved for woodblock printing in late 1934 or early 1935.
All of the original prototype paintings for this series are currently in a single private collection.
[Images of this painting 134-0 will eventually be posted here.]
Like most 36 Series designs 134 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy.
Therefore, for 134 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 134 with edition I markings by listing approximate potential ranges of 1935-1941 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 WWII, 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.
134 is the 36 Series
design of the 134 Sichuan Mallow
The 134 Sichuan Mallow theme actually incorporates images of two different species of plants (see below), but it is not a compound theme. Unfortunately, both English and modern Japanese lack a general name unique to this pairing. Rakusan's contemporary name for this theme is unknown, but one set of names formerly used for the two species share the same Japanese root, 蜀葵, lit. 'Sichuan (Szechuan) mallow', which can be read either しょっき, ショッキ, shok-ki; or しょくき, ショクキ, shoku-ki. The English name used here for this theme is simply a literal translation of this Japanese root. Note that although 'Sichuan Mallow' serves as a convenient label for this pairing and for theme 134, it is not current usage as a name for a kind of plant either in Japanese or English.
The 134 Sichuan Mallow theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. All five Fan Series designs in this theme have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. However, the 36 Series design 134 hasseal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. The 134 Sichuan Mallow theme was eventually grouped with other summer season themes at the end of the series.
The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 134 Sichuan Mallow theme were distributed in early 1935 in the final installment twelve (of twelve). The delivery documents for installment twelve remain to be discovered. The series as originally announced would have seen this last installment (and 36 Series design 134) published in December 1934. However, with previously documented delays the earliest month these could actually have been delivered is March 1935, and they may well have been even further delayed. Each of the woodblock prints in this theme would have been printed in the same month as their distribution.
At least some of the Sichuan mallow designs in this theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 57 in the earlier 100 Series. Several fan designs are especially close to 57. Both 134-3 and 134-5 combine the Sichuan mallow with a varied tit just as 57 does, and 134-1 instead shares the mantis.
Red Swamp Mallow (Scarlet Rosemallow, Texas Star), Hibiscus coccineus
, is native to the southeastern United States and has many English common names.
It has become a favorite exotic garden plant in Asia because of its brilliant scarlet-red flowers and its interesting, highly-dissected leaves.
When Rakusan wrote the title-caption for 57, he used an older name for Red Swamp Mallow, 紅蜀葵, こうしょっき, コウショッキ, kou-shok-ki, lit. 'red Sichuan mallow'.
This name plays on the resemblance of that species to Sunset Muskmallow, Ablemoschus manihot, which also appears in this theme. Sunset Muskmallow is native to parts of Sichuan - hence its Chinese name taken over into Japanese, 黄蜀葵, おうしょっき, オウショッキ, ou-shok-ki, lit. 'yellow Sichuan mallow'. However, today the most common Japanese name for Red Swamp Mallow is based on the supposed similarity to the Japanese maple in red autumn colors, 紅葉葵, もみじあおい, モミジアオイ, momiji-aoi, lit. 'red-leaf (i.e. maple) mallow'.
These two plants resemble one another and are in the same Malvaceae (Mallow) family, although they are in different genera and are not actually very closely related. Although the stems and dissected, palmate, leaves of the two plants look almost exactly the same, the shapes and colors of the five-petaled flowers are different. Notably the pistils are of different lengths, and where the pistil is shown, the species identification is clear in all flower forms.
Designs 134, 134-1, and 134-5 (as well as 57) are Hibiscus coccineus whose flowers have pointed, well-separated, dark petals with very long pistils. (In color the flowers are scarlet or crimson red and star-shaped.)
Designs 134-2, 134-3, and 134-4 are Ablemoschus manihot whose flowers have rounded, overlapping, pale-colored petals with dark centers, and short pistils. (In color the flowers are a creamy yellow with a maroon center.)
In 134 Rakusan shows the short-lived flowers of Red Swamp Mallow in all three typical stages:
unopened bud at left, fully open at center, and spent flower at right.
When the bloom is finished, the petals recurl around the base, leaving the long pistil protruding.
(It is this final stage which is also shown in 134-1 and 134-5.)
Rakusan typically rendered his colored insects so carefully that they are often identifiable as particular species or genera.
The grasshopper or locust (both superfamily Acridoidea), 飛蝗, 蝗虫, 蝗, ばった, バッタ, batta, shown in 134 has not yet been fully researched.