This design is the twenty-seventh 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 27. 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 127, the 127th 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 127 was adapted from 127-0, 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:
|127-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1934-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 127 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Although all documented copies of 127 look very much alike, there are actually many small variations in color. So far it has not been possible to use these individual differences to distinguish consistent color morphs, and almost all copies are considered to represent a single version referred to the original edition I printings.
The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I.
Edition II (1948-1955): The copy of 127 in Rakusan's personal 36 Series demonstration set has a secondary Rakusan cursive signature. (Not illustrated.) This association probably indicates that 127 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 127 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 typically 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.
127 is the 36 Series
design of the compound 127 Shrimp and Clam
The 127 Shrimp and Clam 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.
Despite the early completion of those wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution for several months. The 127 Shrimp and Clam theme was eventually grouped with other winter season themes into an installment nearer to the end of the series. One fan design (127-3) has seal R which is a rare minor seal whose carving period has yet to be established. The 36 Series design 127 and the remaining fan design (127-5) both have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
On the Fan Series delivery folio for installment eight on November 22, 1934 Rakusan announced shrimp and clam designs as due to appear in installment nine the following month, December 1934. However, the delivery documents for installment nine have yet to be located, and it is not known if installment nine was actually distributed on time or was delayed. The publications of installment eight in November 1934 and of installment ten in March 1935 constrain the publication of installment nine to one of the three intervening months, December 1934, January 1935, or February 1935; and indicate that the other two of these months had no deliveries. The woodblock prints for installment nine would have been printed during the same month as their distribution.
In that Fan Series announcement Rakusan used the theme title 鰕に蛤, ebi ni hamaguri, loosely 'shrimp and clams', which is also the original title of the 36 Series design 127 published at the same time. The Japanese name 蝦, (also written 海老, 蛯, 螧, えび, エビ), ebi, is a general name for all lobsters, prawns, shrimp, and crayfish; but the meaning does not include crabs. Because there is no English word with equivalent scope, only for convenience here 蝦, ebi, in the theme name is translated as 'shrimp' which is the historical meaning of that kanji.
Since the 127 Shrimp and Clam theme is a compound theme, both elements appear in its 36 Series design 127, but this is the only design where both elements occur. The individual Fan Series designs have one or the other. Types of ebi appear in 127-1, 127-2, and 127-4; and clams appear in 127-3, and 127-5.
Other non-thematic aquatic species are also included in 127-1, 127-3, and 127-5.
The included species have variable habitats: 127-1 and 127-4 are freshwater species, 127-2 is a fresh-to-brackish water species, and 127-3, 127-5, and 127 are entirely marine species.
(All of the crabs accompanying the thematic species are marine, and freshwater crabs have a separate theme corresponding to 36 Series design 131.)
All of the animal life shown in the 127 Shrimp and Clam theme are sold in food markets. Rakusan could easily have obtained models in Kyoto and eaten them for dinner afterward.
At least some of the clam designs in this theme could have been adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 40 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).
Japanese Spiny Lobster, Panulirus japonicus
, 竜蝦, 伊勢海老, 伊勢蝦, 伊勢えび, いせえび, 伊勢エビ, いせエビ, イセエビ, ise-ebi
, is a marine species native to Japan.
127 is the only known Rakusan design showing this species.
Common Orient Clam, Meretrix lusoria, 蛤, 蚌, 文蛤, はまぐり, ハマグリ, hamaguri, is a common marine bivalve in Japanese waters.
Orient Clams are apparently the only species of clam Rakusan used in artworks, and they appear also in 40alt and 40.