Kogou 小督
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lady Kogou. A late 12c beauty described in HEIKE MONOGATARI 平家物語 (The Tale of The Heike; see *heike-e 平家絵), whose wretched exile at *Sagano 嵯峨野 became a painting subject in the early 17c. As described in the Tale, Kogou originally the daughter of the Middle Counsellor chuunagon 中納言 Fujiwara no Shigenori 藤原成範, was an attendant of Empress Tokuko 徳子 (Kenreimon'in 建礼門院 ;1155-1213) when her great beauty caught the eye of Emperor Takakura 高倉 (r. 1168-80). When the emperor made her his concubine, Kogou's secret admirer the Major Counselor shoushou 少将 Reizei Takafusa 冷泉隆房 was heartbroken. Taira no Kiyomori 平清盛 (1118-81), learning that the husbands of his daughters were both smitten with Kogou decided to exile her. Learning of this plan, Kogou left the palace and hid in Sagano, west of the capital. Heartbroken at Kogou's disappearance, Emperor Takakura sent the courtier Nakakuni 仲国 to search for her. Nakakuni, hearing that Kogou was staying at a house with a single-doored gate in Sagano, and knowing her fondness for playing the koto 琴, Nakakuni went there on a moonlit night and listened for the strains of her playing. Locating Kogou by this method, Nakakuni signalled his presence by playing some accompanying notes on his flute and upon gaining entrance presented Kogou with a letter from the Emperor. With his stable-men and guards watching the house, Nakakuni returned to consult the Emperor. Although she wished to retire to Oohara 大原, Kogou was brought back to the palace and kept in secret, but Kiyomori eventually discovered the ruse and forced Kogou at the age of 23, to become a nun in Sagano where she eventually died. The story was made into a *nou 能 drama taking place at Sagano. As a painting theme, Kogou's sad tale was illustrated both in large screens (Burke Collection, Fuji 富士 Museum) by artists of the *Kanouha 狩野派 and *Tosaha 土佐派 and in *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 prints by artists such as Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木春信 (1724-70) and Andou Hiroshige 安藤広重 (1797-1858). Typically Kogou is shown playing the koto inside a small thatched house while Nakakuni plays his flute outside the gate.


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