Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal G
||+ Seal F
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.
For edition characteristics applicable to this series as a whole, see the Edition article.]
This woodblock print was produced from an original painting on silk dating from the late 1920s whose current location is unknown. The indentification of this design as number 17 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 17th design in his series of one hundred woodblock prints called 楽山花鳥畫譜, Rakuzan Kachou Gafu
, lit. 'Rakusan's Flower and Bird Print Series'.
Edition I: The first print run of about two hundred copies of 17 was completed and the design was published in January 1930 in installment nine (of fifty). (The exact printing and publication dates are unknown since no copies of the installment nine delivery documents have yet been located.) 17 proved to be a popular design, and at least one additional full print run of edition I of 17 was produced before mid 1933 when the series was completed and edition I printing ceased. As a result, three quarters of all documented copies of 17 come from edition I printings, including the different example copies illustrated at top above and at below left.
17alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject was issued the month before the initial printing of 17 as a preview advertisement (see Related Designs below).
Edition II: 17 was reprinted in edition II at least once between 1936 and 1941. One quarter of the documented copies of 17 come from edition II, including the copy illustrated at below right. Edition II copies of 17 with city-name stamps or Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signatures indicate that supplies were sufficient to support postwar sales. Currently, no examples of edition III printings of 17 have been found, and it is possible that a need to reprint 17 after the war never materialized.
17 is one of the very few Rakusan designs for which any printing details exist.
The Foster booklet reports that 17 required 220 printing impressions to complete.
The background colors in all copies of 17 are actually a pale, warm tan-yellow. When photographed under different lighting conditions, this (and several of the other colors) can appear more yellow, more pink, or more brown, as in the three examples selected here. In person these colors are much more similar than they appear here. As a result, it is difficult to identify edition differences based on color.
|17 (edition I)
||17 (edition II)
Other Foster Information:
17 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 17 from Japan, Foster also sold two grades of reproductions which he had machine-printed in the USA.
Both reproduction versions were created from the same original model, an edition II copy of 17 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as page 30 of the Foster booklet.
The fine art reproduction was produced to very high standards of photolithography on good quality, heavy matte paper; and the inks were carefully color-matched to those of the original woodblock print.
Because of this attention to detail, it was relatively expensive, few copies were sold, and they are seldom encountered today.
Instead, what are mostly offered for sale as reproductions of 17 are actually copies of page 30 cut from the Foster booklet.
Regrettably, the booklet was inexpensively and inexactly machine-printed on semi-gloss paper, and its illustration colors are not true to the original.
The booklet illustration has a strong yellow tinge, and the original background is a warm-neutral tan and not a yellow.
Both reproduction versions are of similar size (listed as 9" x 12"); therefore they are significantly smaller than the original woodblock print (listed as 13" x 18").
(Both reproductions actually maintain the unique proportions of the original woodblock print; so the advertised dimensions are only rough approximations.)
Initially, Foster sold original woodblock prints of 17 for $25, fine art reproductions for $3, and the entire booklet (with 27 different designs) for $1.
Because the Foster booklet was printed in great numbers and remains widely available today, it is usually less expensive to buy the entire booklet than a single page reproduction.
Because Foster could not read Rakusan's Japanese title-captions, he made up ones of his own to use in the booklet. Here he called 17 "Ivy and Doves".
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; (1938) 10996 [illustrated online].
Japanese Ivy (Japanese Creeper, Boston Ivy, Grape Ivy), Parthenocissus tricuspidata
, 蔦, つた, ツタ, tsuta
, is a familiar Asian-native vine now widely planted around the world.
The descriptor 紅葉, kouyou
, lit. 'red-leaf', refers to leaves which have turned color (especially red) in autumn, rather than to a variety of the vine.
(Elsewhere in this series on design number 62
, Rakusan translated this descriptor into English as 'red autumn ___ leaves' and that translation is used here.)
The dark berries hanging amid the leaves are the ripe fruit.
The lichen-covered branches of an unidentified tree, which supports both birds and vine, are not mentioned in the title-caption.
Spotted (Turtle) Doves, Streptopelia chinensis, is called 鹿の子鳩, かのこばと, カノコバト, kanoko-bato, lit. 'fawn-pigeon' from the fawn-like spots on the neck.
It is an exotic cage bird in Japan where it has failed to establish in the wild.
Rakusan would likely have been illustrating a mated pair of captive birds in an aviary.