[modernly supplied title]


boke no hana ni tonbo

Quince Flowers and [Skimmer] Dragonfly


Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

106 Quince Theme / 106 ボケ画題

Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I (only edition): 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.]

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. 106-4 indicates that this is a Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 106 Quince theme. Like all other designs in this series, 106-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.

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 106 Quince theme. The 36 Series designs for all six were also completed and carved within that same short period. The 106 Quince theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print.

At least some of the quince designs in this theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 8 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).

The Fan Series woodblock prints of the 106 Quince theme were distributed in early 1934 in installment two (of twelve). The delivery documents for installment two remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either February, March, or April 1934, and the woodblock prints would have been printed during the same month as the publication.

The composition of 106-4 shows the ends of three quince branches. The technique is a combination of simple line drawings for the buds, thorns, and stems; with additional shading on the leaves and larger branches. Resting on the end of the middle branch is a skimmer dragonfly carefully rendered as a shaded line drawing.

The woodblock print of 106-4 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:

106-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
The three species of flowering quince are collectively known in Japanese as 木瓜, ぼけ, ボケ, boke, and in English informally as "Japanese Quince". Today the Japanese name is also used particularly for one of the most common garden varieties, Chaenomeles speciosa var. cf. lagenaria, a selection of an originally Chinese and Korean species early imported into Japan. There is also a shorter-growing native species, Chaenomeles japonica. These quinces have been bred into many forms for flower and fruit production and are often used in bonsai. Many varieties of quince have long, prominent thorns.

The general name for all dragonflies is 蜻蛉, とんぼ, トンボ, tonbo, 'dragonfly'. This name is also used in a technical sense for members of the huge, cosmopolitan family Libellulidae which are often called skimmers in English. The only dragonflies Rakusan includes in any of his woodblock print designs are medium-sized skimmer dragonflies. Many Japanese species of skimmer dragonfly have transparent wings with a small rice-grain-shaped dark spot on the leading edge of each wing near the outer end. This feature can be seen in all of the Rakusan woodblock print images of dragonflies.

Several kinds of skimmer dragonflies in the genus Sympetrum (also called darters in English) have males with red bodies and therefore are informally known as 茜(蜻蛉), あかね(とんぼ), アカネ(トンボ), akane (tonbo), lit. 'madder-red (dragonfly)'; or 赤蜻蛉, あかとんぼ, アカトンボ, aka-tonbo, lit. 'red dragonfly'. However, although the bodies of the red darter males are solid red, the bodies of the females (and those of many other skimmers) are yellow with brown or black stripes, bands, or other markings.

The only secure identification of a Rakusan dragonfly species is a red darter dragonfly illustrated in the 36 Series design 113. This species, Sympetrum baccha matutinum, lacks a common name in English. Its Japanese name is 小熨斗目蜻蛉, このしめとんぼ, コノシメトンボ, ko noshime-tonbo, lit. 'small noshime dragonfly'. (A noshime is a kind of ceremonial dress.) It differs from the other red darters in having a dark red-brown or black patch covering the entire outer end of each transparent wing (instead of just the small spot). However, presumably for easier printing, Rakusan took artistic license in depicting this species in 113. He used the same magenta reds which predominate in the cockscomb flowers for the dragonfly bodies (making them appear male), and also for the large wing tip patches. As a result, the small dark spot which would in life have merged with the darker wing tip patches is still visible.

In addition to the dragonfly in the 36 Series design 113, two Fan Series designs in the 113 Cockscomb theme also include skimmer dragonflies. However, neither these two (nor any other Rakusan dragonflies) can be the same species as in 113. Other identification is largely speculative. There are five other skimmer dragonflies which occur in monochrome fan designs; so only the patterns (if any) are available for identification. 113-2 and 133-5 are simple line drawings which lack further diagnostic details. 113-4 and 106-4 have markings on the body that suggest those skimmers are female, and the solid color body in 128-1 suggests a male. All of these other examples could be any of several closely similar skimmer species. One representative red darter candidate would likely have appealed to Rakusan since it is a common endemic, Autumn Darter, Sympetrum frequens, 秋茜, アキアカネ, aki akane, lit. 'autumn madder-red'. Another possibility would be a skimmer species in the genus Orthetrum such as Common (White-tailed) Skimmer, Orthetrum albistylum speciosum, 塩辛蜻蛉, シオカラトンボ, shiokara tonbo, lit. 'salt-spicy dragonfly'.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 106 Quince theme:
106-1 106-2 106-3 106-5 106

Other designs with quince:
8 105-1 (?)

Other designs with darter dragonflies:
113-2 113-4 128-1 133-5 113