Signature and Seal Markings:
|Edition I (only edition):
||+ Seal C
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. 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.
113-4 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 113 Cockscomb theme.
Like all other designs in this series, 113-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
The 113 Cockscomb
theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print.
The Fan Series
prints of the 113 Cockscomb
theme were distributed in mid 1934 in installment five (of twelve).
The delivery documents for installment five remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either July or August 1934.
The woodblock prints would have been printed earlier in the same month as their distribution.
The contents of installment five had been previewed in the delivery documents for installment four.
However, a different theme had been announced as 113
, and the cockscomb designs were apparently a last minute substitution for this position.
The individual designs in the 113 Cockscomb theme were completed in at least two stages.
Four of the five fan designs (including 113-4) have seal C which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934. The remaining fan design and the 36 Series design 113 have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
The name used here for the 113 Cockscomb theme is a translation of 鶏頭, keitou,
upon which the Japanese names for not only all varieties of cockscombs, but also for amaranths and other members of the Amaranth Family, are based.
The six designs of the 113 Cockscomb theme include four only with crested cockscombs, one with both plumed and crested cockscomb, and one with tricolor amaranth.
Therefore, the theme is based not only to the crested cockscomb design 35 of the earlier 100 Series, but also to the tricolor amaranth design 55.
At least some 113 Cockscomb theme designs were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s for those earlier large designs (see below).
The composition of 113-4 includes a large, complex flowering head of crested cockscomb. Sitting on the edge of the flower at top right is a female skimmer dragonfly.
The cockscomb plants are rendered as rather fluid, but still detailed, bold line drawings. However, the dragonfly is very finely detailed. The wings of the dragonfly are shown to be transparent in places by allowing some of the wavy flower to show through it. Both rendering techniques work equally well viewed as ishizuri or as the reversed original.
The woodblock print of 113-4 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:
113-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Although not native to Japan, cockscombs and the related amaranths are old garden imports which for centuries have been extensively bred and hybridized by Japanese horticulturalists.
These plants were favorite subjects for Rakusan and several diffferent kinds appear in his prints and paintings.
The general name for the group is also the species name of the crested variety of cockscomb (sometimes simply called cockscomb), Crested Cockscomb, Celosia
, 鶏頭, けいとう, ケイトウ, kei-tou
, lit. 'chicken-head'.
Crested Cockscomb is the variety Rakusan illustrates in 113-4, and also in all of the other designs in this theme except 113-1.
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'.