This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/
In this analysis, I will compare two major scenes (chapters 20-21 versus chapters 41-42), which happened both in Baek Na-Kyum’s study and chamber. In this chamber, our main lead, Yoon Seungho, has sex with the painter BNK.
The moment the lord Yoon Seungho forced the painter to live in his mansion, the latter was sent to the room next to Yoon Seungho’s bedchamber. One of the reasons for this was that it was much easier for BNK to enter the lord’s chamber in order to paint the erotic scenes. However this also outlined the special status the noble gave him. The noble would have never let someone live close to him whom he didn’t trust. He knew that the painter represented no thread to him.
Now, you are wondering why these scenes should be compared to each other. First, both scenes mark a turning point in the relationship between the lord and the painter. Secondly, through the comparison, you get a better understanding of the chapter 42 and why it also illustrates a crucial moment for the painter, whereas the chapters 20-21 marked a pivotal moment for Yoon Seungho.
What caught my attention was the way both scenes showed so many parallels. Let us a take closer look:
- both scenes were predated with an argument between the painter and the teacher Jung In-Hun. In the picture below, you can observe Seungho witnessed from far away how BNK got upset. chapter 19
The lord can not hear the content of the conversation but he observes that Baek Na-Kyum is hurt and upset due to the teacher. The latter has just discovered that the invitation and the support from Yoon Seungho has nothing to do with Jung In Hun’s abilities. Then he resents the low-born. In the chapter 41, Yoon visits the painter’s study because he heard from the servants that the painter wouldn’t leave his room and would keep painting without eating much. As you can see, the lord pays a lot of attention to the mental health of the painter. He knows from the way BNK is acting that something is wrong. The reason for BNK’s strange behavior is that BNK had just heard before from Jung In Hun that he was born to be a prostitute. His love for In Hun was so pure and for the teacher, BNK was just a prostitute.
The quarrel started because the painter asked the teacher what would happen to him, once the learned sir would succeed the civil service examination. The scholar refused to take any responsibility for the commoner, as he claimed that he was already experiencing a huge change and getting a lot of benefit from Yoon Seungho. The artist had to hear from the one whom he admired the most that he was just a prostitute in his eyes. (chapter 40) The main lead was definitely hurt. Nonetheless, Seungho never witnessed their conversation, unlike in the chapter 19. And in this chapter (19), the rich lord thought that the expensive bottle of wine that had disappeared had been snatched by the painter due to his emotional state. Since the aristocrat had already figured it out that the painter was upset, he decided to visit the artist’s chamber. In other words, in both cases, the lord showed some concern about the painter, and wanted to keep an eye on him. At the same time, he desired to discover the truth about the missing bottle of wine
2. In both scenes, the painter made the first move on Seungho, which contrasts so much to the artist’s normal behavior. The latter has always kept pushing away the rich lord. He always tried to avoid his touch and even his gaze.
In the chapter 42, BNK didn’t kiss the lord right away, he asked Seungho first to hold him. However, there was no reaction from the lord, since BNK had yelled at the noble before which led Seungho to slap the painter for his disrespect. Unlike in the chapter 20-21, there was no quarrel between the lord and the painter… but there was a huge misunderstanding. BNK mistook YSH for the teacher and thought, Jung In Hun was visiting, hence he kissed him. Back then, he was under the influence of alcohol, yet this revealed his deepest wish. He wanted to confess his love for the teacher. Striking is that in both kisses, Seungho keeps his eyes opened.
In the chapter 20, he was surprised and shocked, in the other chapter he is uncertain about the kiss. He has no idea why the crying, visibly upset BNK is asking for his embrace. Nonetheless, BNK’s kisses did affect Seungho whom I have been described in another post as someone detached and emotionless. While he criticizes the painter’s kiss in the chapter 42, this would not arouse him, in the earlier chapter he made no complaint. He saw it as an opportunity to finally taste the painter. He was not annoyed by the lack of inexperience unlike in the chapter 41. However, both kisses have something in common. Both outline BNK’s innocence and purity. These kisses are not here to excite the partner but to express a deep and pure love (chapter 19) or to ask for warmth and comfort (chapter 41).
3. The other similarity is the presence of Jung In Hun in that chamber, although the teacher is not physically there. In the chapter 19, the love confession BNK made was actually addressed to Jung In Hun and not Seungho. Furthermore, BNK kept calling Seungho “my learned sir” and that’s how the painter used to call his beloved teacher. Since BNK was drunk, he mistook the wealthy lord for his loved one. I would even say that BNK is actually imagining JIH’s presence. He is not really seeing the teacher as the author gave us a few pictures from BNK’s perspective. It was as if he wished, the teacher would be there. He drank so much in order to drown his sorrows but to be more precise, he drank in order to escape from reality, like he was in ecstasy. He preferred living in an illusion than facing the reality that the teacher has never loved him and will never loved him. For BNK, this night is like a dream. In other words, this night where BNK lost his virginity was an illusion and a dream. That’s why at the end, he cried out of happiness and even told Seungho that he was happy. But for Seungho, this night had another signification. First, he thought that it wasn’t too bad if BNK mistook him for JIH as he could finally taste the painter. However, as time passed on, he could no longer bear hearing from BNK “learned sir” hence he proposed BNK to call him “lord”. As you can see, the shadow of JIH in the room did bother Seungho. And for Seungho, this night in the chapter marked a pivotal moment as well. He heard a pure and innocent love confession and at the end, when BNK told him that he was so happy and his heart was full, Seungho’s heart was moved and touched. I doubt that Seungho had ever heard before that he could make someone happy. Since BNK had kept his virginity intact for his loved one and confessed to Seungho indirectly, this night gives the readers the impression of a wedding night. Back then, the husband usually joined the bride much later. But the problem here is that all this was also an illusion and a dream for Seungho as everything said and done was addressed to the learnt sir and not to our main lead. This explains why our seme is looking for a renewal of this night later.
As I had mentioned before, in both scenes the readers felt the presence of In Hun in this chamber. In chapter 41, his shadow is indicated by the drawing,
Although the painter is kissing him and even asking him to embrace him, the lord refuses and becomes even angry at the low-born. He doesn’t want to become intimate with the painter because this is related to Jung In Hun. Our seme is even quite brutal and even grabs BNK’s hair. He even criticizes BNK’s kiss saying that with such a move he can not be excited. But this rejection from the lord doesn’t even upset the painter, hence he becomes more proactive. He grabs Seungho’s loin, undresses himself (chapter 41), he would have sex with the seme without any preparation. The lord is actually surprised by BNK’s actions because this doesn’t resemble him at all. He acts as a prostitute that’s why Seungho asks if the teacher has talked the painter into it.
But by comparing these two scenes, I noticed some differences as well. We can observe a huge contrast between these two scenes. While earlier, Seungho was just looking for sex, he found love or better said, he tasted the illusion of love and enjoyed it very much. Baek Na-Kyum was a virgin, totally inexperienced and innocent who asked the noble to be careful with him. And in chapter 41-42, the opposite is happening. The artist is actually acting like a prostitute… it was, as if he was looking for sex but this is not what Seungho wants. I say prostitute because BNK is acting as if he was doing a job and not seeking love and affection. He considers himself as a prostitute as he has received support from the lord all this time and he thinks that Seungho has always perceived him as such. There is no seduction in this scene as BNK has been “forced to prostitution”. Actually, the painter’s words contradict his words and his actions. He doesn’t say that he wants sex because he keeps begging for the lord’s embrace. Being hold is connected to warmth and affection. And here, the reader can feel the pain and despair from the painter. Jung In Hun’s words (“you are born as a prostitute”) are still in his mind. Here, BNK is doing the exact opposite of the night in the chapter 20. He is no longer running away from the reality and living in an illusion, BNK wants to face the reality. The slap from Seungho should be considered as a wake up call. Baek Na-Kyum can not ignore the lord’s status, he can not mistake him for someone equal to him. In both scenes, BNK overlooked the lord and this is not what Seungho wants. He wants to be perceived as the person he is: a lord who worries about the painter.
Then in order to underline the contrast between both scenes, while their first night took place during the night, the kiss in chapter 41-42 happens during the day. As you can see, the time reinforces the idea of illusion (chapter 20-21) and of reality (chapter 41-42). So since the artist is facing reality, he has decided to follow his lord’s orders (painting erotic pictures) and he acts as a prostitute, because he really believes what Jung In Hun said before. He is taking the teacher’s words as face value, while in verity Jung In-Hun has no idea that Yoon Seungho is treating BNK more like a lover and even “wife”. Back then, it was a custom that the lord visits the chamber of the wife and concubine. But the artist is not really aware of all this. And just like in the chapter 20, the aristocrat is annoyed and even jealous of the place the learned sir has in Baek Na-Kyum’s mind and heart.
Another difference is that in the chapter 20 Seungho wanted to sleep with BNK right away and BNK had to stop him. The painter had to confess his virginity and his fear and this confession surprised the lord as he never expected this from the low-born. Since the painter came from a gisaeng house and would paint sodomy, he naturally thought, he had experienced. In the chapter 42, Seungho does the opposite. While BNK wants to start right away, the noble questions BNK’s behavior and points out the need of preparation. And this difference out lines the special care the lord has for the painter. He really determines not to hurt BNK physically, while the latter doesn’t care at all. Like I had mentioned before, the physical pain is to replace the emotional pain.
Striking is that even in the chapter 42, their first night is even mentioned. The painter confesses that he did enjoy the night, he even concedes that he likes painting such erotic pictures. Since he is facing reality, BNK admits for the first time his homosexuality which had been suppressed by the teacher all this time. But at the same time, he is admitting that he is a prostitute which is shown through his actions. However, he can’t even say this to the lord. What caught my attention was the contrast between these scenes when it comes to eloquence. Although BNK was drunk in the chapter 20-21, his confession was well spoken (“I admire you”, “I pine for you”), in the chapter 42 he is neither sick nor drunk, yet he is unable to talk properly. He stutters and can’t even finish his sentences “I’m… a …”). The pain is so strong that he is left speechless.
He is so hurt that he wants to have rough sex (“harder”, “so it’s all the way in”). He wants to be physically hurt so that he can no longer feel any pain in his heart. It was as if he wanted to erase the words In Hun spoke from his mind. Hence he says “So I can’t think of anything else”. Strangely, BNK’s gesture and position show the change in their relationship. He is now facing the lord, he even grabs the noble’s hand and puts it on his stomach. It is such an intimate gesture outlining that this is much more than senseless sex. BNK has not realized the contradiction between his words (“harder”/ “to hold me”) and his actions (grabbing his loin/putting the hand on his stomach). We can see that BNK is actually lost and confused.
However, just like the night from the chapter 20 changed everything for Seungho, this night changes everything, as BNK is no longer running away from reality. (chapter 42) He is no longer suppressing his homosexuality and he is accepting to have Seungho by his side. Just thinking about In Hun causes pain to the painter here, while he was in ecstasy in the chapter 20. He even wrinkled the painting of the ceremony with In Hun which shows the huge pain in his heart. (chapter 41) For him, paintings are treasures. This gesture reveals some changes in BNK. The painter is well aware that the teacher has abandoned him as the former doesn’t want to assume any responsibility. Therefore, his disrespect for the picture is a sign of disrespect for the teacher. Although he has internalized In Hun’s words and views, he is so affected that he no longer admires In Hun like before. In the chapter 42, he no longer calls Jung In Hun “learned sir” but “my teacher” which illustrates that BNK no longer views IH as a noble (“sir”) but as a simple teacher. He only sees Jung In Hun in his actual position and not as his social status. We all know that despite being a noble, JIH is not rich and influential. He belongs to the lower nobility. IH is no longer put on a pedestal. But BNK has still some respect for IH as he calls him “my teacher”. So there is still a string between the teacher and the painter but it is about to disappear.
There is another common denominator in both scenes: the tears. While the artist cries out joy and happiness in chapter 21, here his tears are linked pain and sorrow, as the artist is heartbroken. (chapter 42) This time, it is the lord who initiates the embrace, something the painter had been longing. (chapter 41) Yet, this request only got fulfilled at the end of the love-sex session, the main lead put the painter on his lap while kissing him and even embraced him in an desperate attempt to console the artist. Simultaneously, this shows that Seungho is longing for warmth, love and tenderness. But despite this night, Seungho is well aware that Baek Na-Kyum is not loving him. He has sex with him because BNK has confessed before that he has never hated the things he did with Seungho which represents a huge step for the lord.
However, the huge contrast is that Seungho is unaware of the reason for the artist’s distress and pain in chapter 41-42. He thought that it was related to the scholar’s departure. Hence he made no move on the painter, and was even a little rough, when he thought that the scholar had asked him to do such a thing. This reasoning illustrates that Yoon Seungho didn’t realize that the scholar had backstabbed the painter. He couldn’t recognize the true cause for the artist’s pain. At the same time, he failed to grasp that the artist had already moved on from the teacher. Besides, he never noticed that the artist had lied for him twice. He had feigned ignorance about the content of the conversation between the main lead and his brother. He had not betrayed his sponsor and host. (chapter 38) Striking is that the painter blamed himself. From my point of view, the painter’s confession could only wound the noble’s heart. (chapter 41) He had the impression that he was somehow responsible for the artist’s tears. Yet after this night, Yoon Seungho had sensed that something had changed in their relationship, just like Baek Na-Kyum’s relationship with the teacher had changed. Notice that this room is connected to betrayal, love, sex and pain.
In conclusion, this chamber is full of symbolism. Here, a noble could feel warmth and love for the first time, although it was just an illusion. Yet he became addicted. As for the artist, this room represents the place where he decided to confront reality. In this room, the lord joins the painter which seems to indicate the future position in the couple: Seungho is willing to meet the painter. The reason for the connection between the study and the change is that in that precise room, the lord had experienced the same: betrayal, sex, love and pain. In my opinion, this is where he got sexually abused.
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