Edition Ia, Morph 130 (a)
Edition Ib, Morph 130 (b)
Edition II, Morph 130 (c)

櫻に大瑠璃鳥 [title from folio]

sakura ni oo-ruri chou/tori

Cherry and Blue-and-White Flycatcher

桜に大瑠璃 [title as emended]

sakura ni oo-ruri

Cherry and Blue-and-White Flycatcher


Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

130 Cherry Theme

Identification Notes:
This design is the thirtieth 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 30. 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 130, the 130th 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 and Morphs:
Edition Ia: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C Morph 130 (a)
Edition Ib: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C Morph 130 (b)
Edition II: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C Morph 130 (c)

[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 130 was adapted from 130-0, 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. The pigments used for the bird are highly reflective from directly in front of the image:
130-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
130-0 (detail of bird from an oblique light angle)

Like most 36 Series designs 130 has the same basic signature and seal combination on every copy. However, each copy of 130 can be assigned to one of three distinct color morphs, 130 (a) and 130 (b) in edition I and 130 (c) in edition II. Although both edition I morphs occur with presentation sheets (see below), 130 (a) is the earliest version and first appeared before 130 (b). The very similar morphs differ primarily in the color and printing technique of the woodblock-printed background and in the colors of the cherry blossoms, but there are also other subtle differences including details of the foliage and the colors of the seal. These differences distinguish two sequential sub-editions in in edition I:

Edition Ia, Morph 130 (a) (1935-1936?): The first published version of 130 is morph 130 (a), and nearly half of all documented copies are of this morph. 130 (a) is the only version included in the earliest documented sales of complete sets, and it is often associated with a presentation sheet (see below). Although the original painting 130-0 has a pale dove-gray background, Rakusan instead used a distinctive pale butter-yellow for the morph 130 (a) background. Morph 130 (a) also has pink-toned blossoms, detailed orange and brown leaves, and a very dark (almost black) red seal.

Unfortunately, copies of morph 130 (a) typically have an unusually high number of printing flaws and condition faults. Several 130 (a) copies show brownish smears from registration errors, and there are also problems with its use of lead white pigment. Used plain (or mixed to lighten other colors) lead white is subject to chemical discoloration caused by sulfur contaminants in the air. Portions of this originally white pigment may gradually turn first rusty-orange, then charcoal gray - or go directly to gray. Many copies of 130 (a) (including the first example above) show both orange and gray discoloration around the outer edges of the flower petals, especially on the flowers and buds closest to the margins of the design. Other copies also show similar gray, discolored patches in the originally even background (which apparently also contains lead white in the ink mixture). Rakusan compounded and mixed his own pigments, and occasionally had problems with chemical reactions fairly quickly after printing. It appears that the printing of morph 130 (a) was rushed, and there was no time to go back and reprint before first publication and distribution.

Edition Ib, Morph 130 (b) (1936?-1941): The second published version of 130 is morph 130 (b), and more than a third of all documented copies are of this morph. For morph 130 (b) Rakusan abandoned the apparently-failed, experimental, yellow background of 130 (a) and replaced it with the originally intended gray of the model painting. He also muted or eliminated the pink blush on the blossoms, and modified the foliage with more vibrant greens and darker browns replacing the earlier brighter oranges. The seal becomes a true red. All of these changes must have happened relatively early since copies of 130 (b) are also associated with presentation sheets (see below). Some copies of 130 (b) have later added city-name stamps indicating sales shortly after World War II before postwar reprinting resumed. The more careful morph 130 (b) reprintings seldom have any printing flaws, and the discoloration problem seems to have been fixed. The second example above is a typical copy of 130 (b).

Edition II, Morph 130 (c) (1948-1955): Copies of the third version of 130, morph 130 (c), are rarely encountered. As with most postwar 36 Series reprintings, morph 130 (c) was probably produced in only a single, small, print run sometime during the edition II period. Each of the few documented copies has a secondarily added, typical Foster era Rakusan cursive signature. Morph 130 (c) retains the color changes initiated in 130 (b) except for removing nearly all of the pink tones from the blossoms. In addition a subtle, slightly darker gray bokashi overlays the pale gray of the lower background. As with 130 (b), copies of 130 (c) typically have no printing or condition issues. The third example above is a typical copy of 130 (c).

The earliest 36 Series prints were delivered tipped into recessed wells of presentation sheets embossed in their lower margins with the series title. 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. 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. There are documented copies of both 130 (a) and 130 (b) which have retained their presentation sheets. Note that absence of presentation sheets is not necessarily 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 typically 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. 130 is the 36 Series design of the 130 Cherry theme.

The 130 Cherry theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. 130 and four 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 remaining Fan Series design has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. The 130 Cherry theme was eventually grouped with other spring season themes near the end of the series.

According to the delivery documents for Fan Series installment ten, the woodblock prints of the 130 Cherry theme were printed in March 1935 and distributed March 25, 1935 in installment ten (of twelve). The series as originally announced would have seen this installment published in October 1934, but there had previously been several delays and skipped delivery months. On the installment ten documents Rakusan used 櫻に大瑠璃鳥, sakura ni oo-ruri chou/tori, 'Cherry and Blue-and-White Flycatcher', as the theme title. However, the flycatcher is not found in any of the Fan Series designs in this theme, and this title is really only appropriate as the title of 36 Series design 130 published at the same time. Since the only subject common to all of the designs in this theme is the cherry, a more general theme title, 130 Cherry, is substituted here.

A minimum of three different kinds of flowering cherry are shown in the 130 Cherry theme designs; therefore the theme subject cannot be described as any particular variety of cherry. The flowers in 130, 130-1, and 130-3 are double; and in 130-2, 130-4, and 130-5 they are single. 130-5 is the only weeping form.

At least some of the cherry designs in this theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of designs 3, 88, 81, and 67 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).

Species Illustrated:
In Japanese the general name for any cherry is 桜 (or older style 櫻), さくら, サクラ, sakura. As with many kinds of cultivated flowering cherry, the species identification is subject to taxonomic disagreement. In the West many varieties are often described as selections (or hybrids) of Japanese (Hill) Cherry, Prunus serrulata, a tall wild species with orange new foliage and smooth bark popularly called 山桜, やまざくら, ヤマザクラ, yama-zakura, lit. 'mountain cherry'. In Japan this wild cherry is sometimes identified as Prunus (Cerasus) jamazakura (with the species name taken from a European spelling of the Japanese name). For 130 Rakusan used the older style kanji 櫻, sakura, 'cherry', which would today be written 桜.

Blue-and-White Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, 大瑠璃, おおるり, オオルリ, oo-ruri, lit. 'large lapis-lazuli' is a familiar native species. Rakusan has shown the more colorful male bird in 130 and used the name 大瑠璃鳥, adding 鳥, chou/tori, 'bird', as a clarification which is today considered unnecessary. For the name of this same species in the title-caption for 100 Series design 84 Rakusan wrote 大るり, oo-ruri, using a mixture of kanji and kana.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 130 Cherry theme:
130-1 130-2 130-3 130-4 130-5

Other designs with kinds of cherries:
3 88 81 67

Other designs with blue-and-white flycatchers: