[modernly supplied title]


bara ni kumo

Rose and Spider


Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

101 Rose Theme / 101 バラ画題

Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I (only edition): 篁子生 Kou-shi-sei + Seal A

The signature 篁子生, Kou-shi-sei forms the basis of the titles for both series in the 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, Project. However on woodblock prints it is an uncommon signature variation used with only a few designs. Its first known use is on this print 101-4. Rakusan soon elaborated this signature to 楽山篁子生, Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei, which is found on most later woodblock prints.

[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. In themes which contain duplicated fan shapes, one has been arbitrarily designated A and the other B. 101-4 indicates that this is a Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 101 Rose theme. Like all other designs in this series, 101-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented. (Note that the copy of 101-4 illustrated above is foxed. The foxing is most evident on the paper surrounding the fan shape.)

Theme History:
Rakusan began creating the Fan Series with a mixed set of designs whose signatures and seals suggest they were carved during the last half of 1933. Aside from a scattering of designs eventually used for later themes, the majority of these early designs were assembled into the first six themes of the series, including the 101 Rose theme. The 36 Series designs for all six were also completed and carved within that same short period. The Fan Series woodblock prints of the 101 Rose theme were distributed in January 1934 in the first delivery, installment one (of twelve).

Rakusan had originally intended to have two rose themes, but he changed his mind after having produced a total of six fan designs and two original paintings intended for the 36 Series. The six rose fan designs which became the 101 Rose theme represent the amalgamation of designs for both of those early incomplete rose groups. As a result, the 101 Rose theme has one design each of fan shapes 1, 2, 4, and 5; and two designs with fan shape 3. (Although the result appears to be a regular fan quintet with and extra design 3, this is probably coincidental, and both early groups were likely incomplete.) Because these designs are in different styles, aside from the duplicated fan shape 3 designs which were obviously in different groups, the original groups of the others cannot be determined.

Installment one has two irregular themes. The 101 Rose theme had six designs. The 102 Iris theme was also the result of a similar early merger of two groups and ended up with four designs. The remainder of the installment quota of fifteen designs in three themes came from the five designs in the perfectly regular quintet of the 103 Tree-peony theme.

At least some of the designs in this theme were adapted from rose sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 7 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).

The composition of 101-4 includes a single rosebud on a stem with leaves. The rosebud is shown silhouetted with internal lines - essentially a line drawing with the solid background darkened out. However, the leaves are mostly simple line drawings on that background. Dangling from the rosebud on a thread of spider silk is a small spider.

The woodblock print of 101-4 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:

101-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
The general Japanese name for any kind of Rose, (genus Rosa), is 薔薇, ばら, バラ, bara. The 101 Rose theme is not defined by any particular variety of rose, but all of the open flowers are large and double-petaled garden hybrids similar to the kind of rose in 101.

Like English, Japanese has a general name for any spider, 蜘蛛, くも, クモ, kumo. Rakusan rarely included spiders in his artworks, and only three woodblock print examples are known. The small spider dangling from a thread of spider silk under the rose bud is probably a kind of orb spider (family Araneidae). The striping on the body suggests Argiope amoena, 黄金蜘蛛, こがねぐも, コガネグモ, kogane-gumo, lit. 'yellow-gold spider'. However, the spider is very sketchily rendered, and certain identification is likely impossible.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 101 Rose theme:
101-1 101-2 101-3A 101-3B 101-5 101

Other designs with roses:

Other designs including various kinds of spiders:
104-4 136-3