Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
|Edition I and Edition II:
||+ Seal N
[Inclusion of Rakusan's name and address in cursive romaji is interpreted as advertising copy rather than as an artwork signature form.]
[For illustration of seals, see the Seals article.]
This woodblock print WC4 was modeled on an original painting on paper about two or three times larger whose current location is unknown.
The designation WC4 is tentative since the order of publication after 1937 is conjectural and therefore is subject to change with additional information.
However, WC4 was almost certainly created to be sent out for one of the winter holidays during the period 1938-1940.
Like the earlier winter cards, WC4 would have been commissioned by Mr. Masao Morikawa, the Secretary to the President of Doshisha University in Kyoto.
Morikawa was both a long-time friend and an important and influential patron.
The design was composed in a traditional style, but with the twist of the participants being giga (cartoon) frogs instead of people.
The frog passenger is smoking a pipe (like the frog in another Rakusan woodblock print, SP1).
All copies of WC4 include primary, woodblock-printed romaji cursive text in black ink placed along the lower margin within the image area of the design.
The inscription is based on text in Rakusan's own romaji handwriting and gives the address of the Rakusan studio and the Western version of his name:
56 Kitamachi-komatubara Kyoto
[Rakusan used here an old-fashioned transcription for ‘Komatubara’ and ‘Tuchiya’ (which he later invariably wrote as ‘Komatsubara’ and ‘Tsuchiya’) which dates the creation of WC4 to before World War II.]
On the lower right within the image are two traditional lozenges.
The orange lozenge on the right (intended to be read first) reads:
三条大橋 [san-jou oo-hashi, 'Sanjo Bridge', which is the Japanese version of the title of the design (see also below)]
Tentatively, the green lozenge on the left reads:
紀光之圖 [kikou no zu, ‘Sightseeing Picture’, ‘Traveler’s Picture’, or perhaps better, ‘Souvenir Picture’]
[If the pronunciation kikou means ‘traveler’s journal’ or ‘journey book’, it should be written 紀行. The intended meaning is presumably something like:
‘Picture [brought back] from traveling [as a remembrance of the occasion] to be put in a souvenir album’]
Edition I copies of WC4 are distinguished by having a title printed in gray ink in the lower margin.
This title is misspelled and reads SANJOBRIDGI KYOTO (for what should have been SANJO BRIDGE, KYOTO).
It is so precisely carved that it is difficult at first to recognize that it is actually printed by woodblock rather than by a machine press.
Comparisons with other examples of small-capital text suggest that it is also based on one of the styles of Rakusan’s own romaji handwriting.
(WC5 has a similarly printed title suggesting both designs were created about the same time.)
Recognizing that the original title was misspelled, Rakusan omitted it when he reprinted edition II of WC4.
The two editions of WC4 are also characterized by different color palettes.
This is most evident in the background color, where edition I has pale blue and edition II has pale gray.
All of the other colors are also slightly different.
Both examples illustrated above are of scans made under identical conditions and show these color differences precisely.
Both edition versions of WC4 were reprinted and have been sold or given away in large numbers after WWII.
The Sanjo Bridge (Sanjo Ohashi), 三条大橋, sanjou oo-hashi
, lit. 'third large-bridge', has been one of the primary crossings of the Kamo River, 鴨川, kamo gawa
, in SE Kyoto for many hundreds of years.
It takes its name from Sanjo-dori, 三条大通り, sanjou douri
, lit. 'third avenue', which crosses the bridge.
Rakusan's depictions of this famous crossing are all of the former concrete bridge which was in use from by at least 1910 until 1950 (when it was replaced by the current structure).
Although color-modified, stylized, and rendered as giga
(cartoons), the frogs can be identified as Japanese Brown Frog, Rana japonica
, ニホンアカガエル, 日本赤蛙, nihon aka-gaeru
, lit. 'Japanese red frog'.
Rakusan often illustrated these giga
frogs as green or orange rather than their natural brownish color.