Edition I

蔦 [title from folio]



蔦に瑠璃鶲 [title as emended]

tsuta ni ruribitaki

Ivy and Bluechat


Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

114 Ivy Theme

Identification Notes:
This design is the fourteenth 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 14. 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 114, the 114th 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 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.]

Print History:
The woodblock print of 114 was adapted from 114-0, 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:
114-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)

Edition I (1934-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 114 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Because all documented copies of 114 look very much alike, and are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), they are all referred to the original edition I printings. The original painting 114-0 has golden glitter across the background and shows the characteristic rusty-orange flank of the bluechat, but in adapting the woodblock print Rakusan omitted both. There is currently no evidence for any other versions of 114. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I.

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.

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 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. 114 is the 36 Series design of the 114 Ivy theme.

The 114 Ivy theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Three of the five Fan Series designs have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. However, the 36 Series design 114 and the other two Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.

On the Fan Series delivery folio for installment four on June 25, 1934 Rakusan announced ivy designs as due to appear in installment five the following month, July 1934. Rakusan used the theme title 蔦, tsuta, 'ivy', which would also have been the title of 36 Series design 114 to be issued at the same time. However, the delivery documents for installment five have yet to be located, and it is not known if installment five was actually distributed on time or was delayed. The publications of installment four in June 1934 and of installment six in September 1934 constrain the publication of installment five to one of the two intervening months, July or August 1934, and indicate that the other month had no delivery. The woodblock prints for installment five would have been printed during the same month as their distribution.

At least some of these ivy designs were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s for design 17 of the earlier 100 Series (see below).

Species Illustrated:
Japanese Ivy (Japanese Creeper, Boston Ivy, Grape Ivy), Parthenocissus tricuspidata, 蔦, つた, ツタ, tsuta, is a familiar Asian native vine now widely planted around the world. The Japanese name for this species is also used as a general term for similar vines and creepers. It is possible that Rakusan intended all six of the 114 Ivy theme designs to represent Japanese Ivy. However, two of the Fan Series designs (114-2 and 114-5) could equally well be other species since none of the diagnostic fruit appear in those compositions.

Siberian Bluechat/ Bluetail (Red-flanked Bluetail, Orange-flanked Bushrobin), Tarsiger cyanurus, 瑠璃鶲, るりびたき, ルリビタキ, ruri-bitaki, lit. 'lapis lazuli-flycatcher', is a native Japanese bird. Although Rakusan used this name for the bird in 100 Series design 16, that bird has a different plumage, including an orange rump and prominent white patches on the wings. As in 114, Siberian Bluechat actually has a blue rump and evenly blue wings (although as here the wings can appear blackish in some lighting conditions). It is possible that in 16 Rakusan was depicting an as yet unidentified species and mistakenly identified it as a bluechat.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 114 Ivy theme:
114-1 114-2 114-3 114-4 114-5

Other designs with ivy:
17alt 17 28

Other designs named as bluechats:
16alt 16