Edition I

牡丹 [from folio]




Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

103 Tree-peony Theme
103 牡丹(ボタン)画題

Identification Notes:
This design is the third 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). Rakusan originally labeled this design number 3. However, after 1936 reprinting two series with duplicated numbering caused some confusion. To avoid further problems Rakusan decided to extend the numbering system from the preceding 100 Series into the 36 Series, and this design was relabeled as number 103, the 103rd design published in his main sequence. Rakusan occasionally wrote his identification number in pencil on the reverse of the print.

Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal A

[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.]

Print History:
The woodblock print of 103 was adapted from 103-0, an actual-size original painting on silk created in late 1933. Because Rakusan intended to retain all of the 36 Series prototypes in his personal collection, he did not affix a signature or seal, and the silk remained loose and unmounted. The silk was originally a pale cream color, but over time it has significantly yellowed:.
103-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)

Edition I (1934-1941): 103 was the third of a contemporaneous group of six 36 Series designs whose wooden blocks were carved within the last half of 1933 and were printed and published in early 1934. Like most 36 Series designs 103 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Because all documented copies of 103 look very much alike, and are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), they are all referred to the original edition I printings. There is currently no evidence for any other versions of 103. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I (except that it has a later-added city-name stamp in the lower left corner).

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 the war, 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.

Theme History:
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, 36 Series 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. 103 is the 36 Series design of the 103 Tree-peony theme.

The 103 Tree-peony theme is the first to appear of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The 36 Series design 103 and four of the five Fan Series designs have seal A which indicates carving dates around the third quarter of 1933. The remaining Fan Series design has seal H, a minor seal from the same seal A period. It was during this time that Rakusan was making his initial plans for the two series. He created and carved all of the designs in the first six themes (including those of the 103 Tree-peony theme) plus a scattering of other designs weeks or even months before publication of the series was to begin.

According to the delivery documents for installment one for both the 36 Series and the Fan Series, the woodblock prints of the 103 Tree-peony theme were printed during January 1934 and were distributed January 20, 1934 in the first series delivery, installment one (of twelve). There Rakusan used the title 牡丹, botan, 'tree-peony', for both the theme designation and the title of the 36 Series design 103.

Later in the series Rakusan created a second, similar, tree-peony theme. That later 117 Winter Tree-peony theme is also perfectly regular in arrangement and content, but each of those designs bears later markings. The designs in the two tree-peony themes also differ in execution with the petals in the 103 Tree-peony theme more silhouette-like, and those in the 117 Winter Tree-peony theme are filled with scribed parallel lines. The 117 Winter Tree-peony theme represents a separate later addition to the series which (apart from its related subject) is entirely distinct from the 103 Tree-peony theme.

At least some of the designs in the 103 Tree-peony theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 10 in the earlier 100 Series (see below). Similarly, the designs in the 117 Winter Tree-peony theme were adapted from sketches for design 11.

Species Illustrated:
Tree-peony, Paeonia suffruticosa, 牡丹, ぼたん, ボタン, botan, now comes in many colors, shapes, and varieties. Winter-blooming Tree-peony, Paeonia suffruticosa var. hiberniflora, 寒牡丹, kan-botan; or 冬牡丹, fuyu-botan; both lit. 'winter tree-peony', is the earliest-blooming variety of tree-peony and typically begins to bloom before the winter snow has melted. Therefore, to protect the new growth the plants are typically staked and often protected from the weight of the snow by a woven grass mat as a kind of open tent structure.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 103 Tree-peony theme:
103-1 103-2 103-3 103-4 103-5

Other designs with tree-peonies:

Other designs in the later 117 Winter Tree-peony theme:
117-1 117-2 117-3 117-4 117-5 117

Other designs with winter tree-peonies:
11alt 11