This design is the ninth 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 9. 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 109, the 109th 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 B
||+ Seal B
[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 109 was adapted from 109-0, an actual-size original painting on silk.
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:
|109-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1934-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 109 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Almost all documented copies of 109 look very much alike, are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), and can be referred to the original edition I printings. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I.
Edition II (1948-1955): The copy of 109 in Rakusan's personal 36 Series demonstration set has a secondary Rakusan cursive signature. (Not illustrated.) This association probably indicates that 109 has an edition II form. The scarcity of all edition II copies of suggests that only a single print run of each was ever made sometime during the postwar edition II printing period. Documentation is very limited, and it remains unclear if this possible edition II of 109 can also be identified as a different color and technique morph.
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.
109 is the 36 Series
design of the 109 Eggplant
The 109 Eggplant theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print.
Only one of the five Fan Series designs have seal C which indicates a carving date between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934.
However, 36 Series design 109 and the other four Fan Series designs all have seal B which indicates a later carving period close to the time of publication.
(The 109 Eggplant theme is unusual in being the theme with the most designs with seal B.)
The sole vegetable theme, 109 Eggplant, was used to finish out installment three, and the three fruit themes (110, 111, and 112) immediately followed as as installment four.
The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 109 Eggplant theme were distributed in early 1934 in installment three (of twelve).
The delivery documents for installment three remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either March, April, or (most probably) May 1934. The individual woodblock prints would have been printed earlier in the same month as their distribution.
Unlike some themes which have designs adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of the earlier 100 Series, there is no demonstrable link here.
However, Rakusan used eggplants in other paintings, and would have had eggplant studies in his lost sketchbooks.
Eggplant (Aubergine), Solanum melongena
, 茄(子), なす(び), ナス(ビ), nasu(bi)
, is originally not native to Japan.
However, it was imported during prehistory as an agricultural crop.
Eggplant comes in many varieties, shapes, and colors.
Rakusan's insects are rendered in great detail and are usually identifiable by genus and often by species as well.
Here the pair of insects are Bell(-ring) Cricket, Meloimorpha (Homoeogryllus) japonicus, 鈴虫, すずむし,スズムシ, suzu-mushi, lit. 'bell-insect'. It is known particularly for its song in Japan, and it features prominently in literature and culture where it is a symbol of autumn.
Also included in 109 are three blades of an unidentifiable grass.