This design is the fifth 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 5. 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 105, the 105th 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:
||+ 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.]
The woodblock print of 105 was adapted from 105-0, an actual-size original painting on silk created in 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:.
|105-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1934-1941): 105 was the fifth 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 105 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Because all documented copies of 105 look very much alike, and are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), they are all referred to the original edition I printings. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I.
The copy of 105 in Rakusan's personal 36 Series demonstration set (not illustrated) has a secondary Rakusan cursive signature which would ordinarily suggest an edition II. However, this particular copy is clearly from edition I and has a city-name stamp. This very exceptional copy of 105 is for the 36 Series the only demonstrated occurrence of this Rakusan signature on an edition I copy, as well as the only co-occurrence of a city-name stamp and a Rakusan signature. There is at present no evidence for any other versions of 105.
Both the original painting 105-0 and the woodblock print 105 show the swallowtail butterfly in exactly the same pose. However, in the painting the butterfly casts a small shadow which makes it seem to be sitting on a sheet of white paper. In the woodblock print 105 the shadow is omitted and the same butterfly therefore appears to be in flight. Except for this shadow the backgrounds in both the painting and the print are uncolored.
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 World War II, 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 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.
105 is the 36 Series
design of the 105 Butterfly
The 105 Butterfly theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The 36 Series design 105 and all five Fan Series designs have seal A which indicates carving dates around the third quarter of 1933. It was during this period 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 105 Butterfly theme) plus a scattering of other designs weeks or even months before publication of the series was to begin. The prints in both series were later printed in the same months they were published.
Publication of the Fan Series and the 36 Series began in January 1934 with installment one containing the first three themes. On the documents attatched to the Fan Series delivery folio envelope for installment one Rakusan announced that butterfly designs would be published the following month, February 1934, in installment two (of twelve). In that announcement he used the theme title 揚, chou, 'butterfly', which was also the original title of the 36 Series design 105.
Between installment one in January 1934 and installment four in June 1934, Rakusan skipped two monthly deliveries while he sorted out the remaining themes in both series. Because the delivery documents for installment two remain to be discovered, installment two (including the 105 Butterfly theme) could theoretically have been published in either February, March, or April 1934. However, the wooden blocks for printing the designs in installment two had already been carved, and there seems no reason why installment two would not have appeared as advertised in February 1934. Other evidence suggests that the two missed months during which major changes occurred in markings and organization were a single block between installment two and installment three.
Butterflies and other insects often occur as subsidiary elements in Rakusan designs.
However, in all of the other themes where they appear, those themes are defined by kinds of plants.
The 105 Butterfly theme uniquely reverses the focus; its theme subject is defined instead by a kind of insect, and the plants are non-thematic subsidiary elements.
Since 105-5 includes only butterflies, it is evident that the butterfly alone defines the 105 Butterfly theme since it is the only element common to all of its designs.
At least some of the designs in this theme were reportedly adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of the earlier 100 Series.
In Japanese the general name for butterfly is 蝶, ちょう, チョウ, chou
, which applies to all the butterfly species illustrated in Rakusan's works and is optionally added at the end of butterfly names.
Asian Swallowtail (Chinese Yellow Swallowtail), Papilio xuthus
, (並)揚羽, (なみ)あげは, (ナミ)アゲハ, (nami-)ageha
, '(common) swallowtail', is a native species in Japan.
Rakusan used this species in 105, 105-1, and 105-3 in this theme; as well as in a rose design, 101-3B, (where it is non-thematic).
Spiny Sowthistle, Sonchus oleraceus, 野芥子, のげし, ノゲシ, no-geshi, is a common native weed.
It is used in 105 and in 105-2 (with a different kind of butterfly) in this theme; as well as in a river crab design, 131-2.
In all of these examples it is a non-thematic subsidiary element.