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 essay, I’ll focus on the causes and consequences of a rift between the characters. Since you have already seen the pictures chosen as illustration for the analysis, you know the identity of the persons I’ll focus. But this is only partially correct. We need to look at the partners’ reactions carefully as well. What caught my attention are the similarities between chapter 18 and 19. In chapter 18, we have the end of relationship between Yoon Seungho and Jihwa, whereas we have a rift between Jung In-Hun and Baek Na-Kyum in the next chapter.
1. The break-up between Seungho and Jihwa
First, let’s examine the first parting. Striking is that the powerful noble is the one who decides to cut ties with his childhood friend.
The latter has been caught as the culprit who ruined Baek Na-Kyum’s second painting. But this incident is just the trigger for the split. In fact, there are other roots for the rift. Interesting is that the red-haired man never expected this to happen revealing that he had never comprehended the true nature of his relationship with Yoon Seungho.
He believed that since he had been by Yoon Seungho’s side for so long and the latter had been his only sex partner, the protagonist had given him some privileges. He was only partially right. The lord closed his eyes, when Jihwa came unannounced and when the latter bought one of his servants in order to spy on him.
All this time, he showed a certain tolerance towards his friend but each time, he revealed displeasure and had a cold gaze which the friend never caught, too self-absorbed in his own feelings and thoughts. That’s the reason the main lead didn’t great him properly in the chapter 12.
It even culminated to a firm warning. But Jihwa overlooked it. From my point of view, the red-haired lord made two huge mistakes. First, he misjudged the warning because of a misunderstanding.
For our beloved seme, the reproach made by Jihwa implied that his friend was spying on him. Therefore he asked him to stop prying into his life by getting info through his “informer”.
Furthermore, Jihwa was acting as if he had a prerogative to meddle in his friend’s life. He had to tell him how to live his life.
Notice the seme’s behavior in the last picture. He puffs the smoke into his friend’s face showing his dissatisfaction and frustration. During their whole conversation (chapter 12-13), Seungho was well aware that Jihwa was prying into his life, however the powerful noble remained distant and didn’t let anything transpire: “Nothing much happened”. So when he warns him not to cross the line, he has something else in his mind. For him Jihwa acts like all the other nobles, keeping an eye on him because valuable info could give him some leverage. The master never thought that his friend’s actions were the result of his jealousy. This is where the misunderstanding lies. Moreover, due to Seungho’s leniency, the red-haired man believed that he had a special place in Seungho’s heart. The reality was different. Yoon Seungho always perceived him as a sex partner like the others because he was a noble. Despite their long relationship, the main character holds deep grudges against the aristocracy. In his eyes, they are all hypocrites and snakes, trying to backstab their acquaintance for their own benefit.
This is what Yoon Seungho learnt through his traumatic past, he saw beyond his father’s actions but Jihwa failed to comprehend this because he is too immature to grasp the whole situation in the past. And this leads me to believe that our protagonist resents the nobility for conspiring against the king. The purge wouldn’t have happened if they had done nothing and he had to bear the whole burden as he was the sacrificed lamb for his family. Simultaneously, the other aristocrats were betrayed by one of their fellows who did it in order to gain more benefit. This explicates his refusal to meddle with politics. For him, all the nobles and the king are terrible. Now, you can understand why the main character couldn’t differentiate Jihwa from the others as he was a noble. What Jihwa recognized as an advantage (his title), it symbolized a hindrance in reality in Yoon Seungho’s life. No wonder that the latter never looked down on the painter because he discerned his talent and hard work.
Furthermore our seme was well aware that Jihwa had been using him all along. Therefore when his friend claims he has been using him all this time, this is no novelty for the seme. However, the readers know very well that these words are not reflecting the entire truth. Jihwa had been waiting for Seungho’s love. Interesting is that these words reinforced the impression the main character had about his childhood friend and this deepens their misconception. Yoon Seungho misunderstands Jihwa’s motivation behind his actions. He can’t detect the love his friend has for him since on the surface, it seems like Jihwa is disregarding his authority, acts behind his back and puts informers in his mansion. Hiring an amateur spy could be for another reason, like discovering his secrets so that he can be blackmailed. The irony is that due to his plot, Jihwa even encourages the former friend to seduce the low-born. Yoon Seungho even teases the red-haired noble by announcing that he will turn this gossip into a reality.
Here, we can clearly observe that Yoon Seungho never viewed Jihwa differently from the other aristocrats. The main lead has the impression that he doesn’t belong to their order hence he has no problem to taste a commoner. For him, title means nothing. That’s the reason why their friendship or sexual relationship could never deepen and become real love. Jihwa could only predict his friend’s behavior but never what triggered his actions. Striking is that the end of their relationship doesn’t affect Yoon Seungho at all. That’s why his heart is not moved when he sees Jihwa’s face full of tears as he doesn’t wipe his tears, like he does with the artist.
For him, the tears can only be a simulacrum, nothing genuine because Jihwa has always faked his facial expressions. In addition, he perceives more anger and rage than pain. I would even add that Yoon Seungho seems to be relieved for the loss of his acquaintance therefore he caresses the painter’s cheek and thanks him for the amusing incident. What caught my attention are Yoon Seungho’s words. While the latter commented to Jihwa that nothing much happened in his life despite the straw mat beating, he considers the parting with Jihwa as exciting. It leaves the impression that Yoon Seungho was living like a zombie with his friend by his side. So hurting another noble has become an amusement and now, we understand why the protagonist had so much fun during the hunt. (chapter 22) He enjoys humiliating nobles, it gives him sensations, whereas punishing commoners or killing servants is nothing extraordinary.
Jihwa’s humiliation and his rift with his childhood friend happens in the courtyard, where many servants witness this incident generating gossip. Due to their parting, Jihwa becomes a drunk and visits the tavern very often. He drowns his sorrow in alcohol. (chapter 41) His chagrin is so deep that he is losing little by little his dignity. In chapter 41, he even has his hair loose and sleeps on the street like a commoner. He no longer acts and dresses like a noble. All this illustrates that Jihwa did love his friend but his lack of consideration and egoism were the reasons why he could never get close to the seme. The irony is that Yoon Seungho has already experienced Jihwa’s betrayal hence this is no surprise if the main lead will know right away who was behind the attempted assassination. The problem is that the main lead never thought that the moment he is in a relationship with the painter, he has to protect his loved one very well. This is no longer amusing and exciting when your loved one gets hurt. This will teach him a lesson so that he will be better prepared, when his other enemies start targeting him.
On the other hand, the dissolution of his relationship with Jihwa liberates the seme, as now he has no particular sex partner. He is free to go after the low-born, even if it means that he will be outcast by the other nobles. (chapter 18) He never cared for his reputation or seclusion anyway. Then we have to remember that from early on Yoon Seungho was aware of Baek Na-Kyum’s feelings for the teacher. In my opinion, he must have even thought that they were in a relationship because Baek Na-Kyum treasured the teacher’s poem so much, was willing to get punished instead of his “learned sir”, when the latter was suspected of the “crime”. In addition, he has never heard the low noble’s words about his disdain for sodomy and erotic pictures. He observed as well that the painter was keeping his distance from him despite the arousal and his advances (chapter 16). From my point of view, the seme got aware that the artist was faithful to the teacher, yet he misjudged the true nature of their relationship. Hence he never anticipated that the painter was a virgin, influenced by the power of the erotic paintings, the place he was raised and the blushing caused by the teacher.
2. The separation between Na-Kyum and In-Hun
And the most important picture in chapter 19 is that only Seungho becomes the witness of the rift between Jung In-Hun and Baek Na-Kyum, unlike with the breakup with Jihwa.
As you can observe, this time there is no servant, only nobles and the latter are not aware of the presence of the two persons in the courtyard. Notice that this scene makes the lord stop walking indicating that he is very attentive and interested because the painter means a lot to him. Now, he gets aware that there is a quarrel between these two people.
First he was in a good mood, when he visited the gisaeng house
because he couldn’t forget the painter’s expression during the masturbation. It had affected him so much that night that he had an arousal too. In other words, their sexual encounter had left a deep impression on the lord. Then the rift with Jihwa changed everything, it encouraged him even more to pursue the uke.
Later he keeps thinking about the scene he witnessed in the courtyard. He is trying to judge what really happened there. When the painting is presented to his guests, he pays attention to the artist’s facial expressions and sees the tears in his eyes masked by the drop of rain.
Sadness is written all over his face but he has no idea about the outcome. Is it just a quarrel or a breakup because he only saw a simple gesture coming from the teacher? He just raised his hand.
Compare this behavior to Yoon Seungho’s, when he cut ties with his friend. The former grabbed the red-haired noble by the topknot, literally threw him on the ground and finally stabbed the spy. Despite the same location, the gestures were more dramatic and more comprehensible hence this scene doesn’t look like a parting. As you can detect, the flashbacks are quite important in this chapter because it outlines the noble’s preoccupations. While he is physically present with his guests, he is actually lost in his thoughts thinking about his “prey”.
When he hears that the bottle of expensive wine has disappeared, Byeonduck focuses on the noble’s gaze.
This is the signal for Yoon Seungho. Now, he knows what occurred between the two men, I mean, he believes to know. Here, look at his gaze, there is surprise but also a light reflecting in his eye. It was as if a fire had been ignited, therefore he is not angry that someone stole the bottle. He knows the identity of the thief but doesn’t care because he sees this as an opportunity to approach the painter. They must have broken up or something similar hence the painter is drinking his sorrow in alcohol.
Imagine the irony, Yoon Seungho doesn’t even pay attention to his childhood friend after the rift. If he had heard that his red-haired friend would spend his days and nights at the tavern drinking, he would have noticed that Jihwa might have had other motives for spying on him. (chapter 36)
For the master, the theft of the bottle is the trigger for him to visit the painter’s chamber. He must seize the opportunity, maybe in his chagrin, Baek Na-Kyum will accept his advances. Therefore he goes there hoping to have sex. What he doesn’t expect is that though he envisaged that he would have to seduce the man, he isn’t in control of the situation. He has to hear a love confession and is even kissed so suddenly. (chapter 19) Right from the start, the low-born is the one controlling their encounter. Like I had mentioned in another analysis, their “first night” together has two phases. The first one is when Seungho is just looking for sex but he is stopped by the artist, when the latter admits his fear since he is a virgin. The second phases is where both make love. In both phases, Baek Na-Kyum is the one affecting the lord’s actions and decisions. Yoon Seungho might have taken advantage of the situation, he is mistaken for the learned sir, but in reality Baek Na-Kyum was the one leading the sexual encounter. The alcohol made their “first night” possible, while for Jihwa it increased his pain and distance to Yoon Seungho.
So if we look again at the scene at the pavilion, we realize that Baek Na-Kyum’s rejection and slap sounds like a breakup for the lord. (chapter 25) It was as if they had an one-night-stand and the other has already forgotten their memorable night… because it meant nothing to the uke. Imagine the irony of the situation. The painter kept his virginity for the teacher but once he lost it to another man, he doesn’t want to enter into a relationship with the man who took his virginity. He values more the feelings than the sexual encounter. This explains why the master uses force in order to submit the painter. He can’t accept the rejection or we could say the breakup in Seungho’s eyes. Then since he has internalized that sex is war through his sexual encounters with the other nobles, he believes that he can act the same way with the commoner. He just needs to defeat the artist sexually and the latter will accept his fate. However, he never expected that the outcome would be different. He might have forced the artist to sex, in reality the painter was never defeated as he mentioned Jung In-Hun, the loved one. (chapter 26) Unlike Jihwa and Baek Na-Kyum, the noble didn’t drink any alcohol in order to ease the pain of the breakup because he never accepted it as such. He preferred fighting for this relationship, hence he took care of the artist after the rape. He refuses to admit defeat, even if his actions even worsen the situation and damage his relationship with the low-born. In other words, there will be no breakup or rejection hence he will never drink his sorrow into alcohol. On the other hand, he will be plagued with pangs of conscience and crack his brain in order to salvage his relationship with Baek Na-Kyum. Strangely, he is far more active than Jihwa and Baek Na-Kyum, when it comes to love which contrasts so much to his passivity concerning politics and the nobility. The lord’s chagrin provokes violent reactions so that at the end, he is truly exhausted because he didn’t manage to succeed. Any attempt to win the painter’s heart failed, until he finally showed his true self: tired, vulnerable and depressed. (chapter 35) Only then he is able to have hope again because he no longer perceives hatred, rejection… he even catches the artist’s blushing. And this outlines the painter’s purity, strength and determination.
Now, it is time to pay attention to Jung In-hun and his “breakup” with the painter and as such its impact on the uke. We have to imagine how hard Jung In-Hun’s fall is because in chapter 18, he starts conveying Yoon Seungho’s possessions,
he strolls through the property while thinking that he is far superior to this noble in term of intelligence and morals.
That’s why he calls the powerful lord “filthy fiend”, yet he has to learn through the incident with Jihwa that the painter occupies a bigger place in the noble’s heart than himself. He discovers the artist’s true role at the mansion, he was never a servant like the aristocrat declared. He had to paint erotic pictures for the master.
He can’t imagine that the lord would value the low-born more than him, who thinks of himself as skilled and intelligent. Imagine that he has to hear that he has to rely on a low-born in order to get sponsored. He denies this accusing the low-born of seducing the noble, proclaiming that he had used immoral means in order to get this position. Let us not forget that with these words, the teacher is trying to diminish the artist’s talent which he can’t recognize as he is just a low-born. Only people from the nobility, even if they belong to the low nobility, have skills, that’s what distinguishes them from the commoners. This is exactly what Jung In-Hun believes hence he is so blinded by his arrogance and entitlement that he can’t admit Baek Na-Kyum’s talent. What a humiliation for the teacher and if we remember how highly he thought of himself while envying the lord’s wealth, he envisioned himself as rich and powerful as his sponsor in the future. This shows how delusional he is. However, he was not sponsored for his abilities but because he was used as leverage for the painter. He had to thank a low-born for his future career due to erotic pictures of sodomy, something he loathes and hates.
What Yoon seungho saw as a simple gesture, is full of meaning and power hence it is so painful for the painter.
The raised hand means that he can no longer remain by the teacher’s side. Jung In-Hun doesn’t need to use violence in order to cut ties with the low-born, he has already physically and emotionally abused him in the past. The low noble pushes him away. Strictly speaking, he can never claim that he was his acquaintance or friend or supporter. By cutting ties, the noble tries to hide from the reality. If they are no longer together, then the deal becomes ineffective.
Now, imagine the irony of the situation, he is the one who ends their relationship because he has some difficulties to accept the truth after discovering the existence of the deal, on the other side he will be the one running towards the artist renewing their relationship, the moment he hears the truth from the powerful lips.
The end of the relationship between Jung In-Hun and Baek Na-Kyum means nothing to the low noble hence he doesn’t need to drink in order to forget the pain. On the other hand, he needs some time in order to digest the news: he was never considered as a great man full of potentials by the lord he envied.
However, the revelation of the deal unveils how fragile his relationship with the painter was. Each time his pride was hurt, he rejected the artist and sent him away. We have to envision that this was the reason why the low-born turned into a drunk. Once the learned sir discovered that Baek Na-Kyum was a successful book author, he got jealous and ensured that he would stop painting. At the same time, he rejected him because of his erotic paintings. The uke could only drown his sorrow in alcohol because he could no longer paint and simultaneously no longer meet the learned sir. This explains why after the rejection, the painter steals the bottle and drinks it all.
He wants to forget that painful moment. It is like in the past. This chapter is important since it gives the readers a clue about the reason why Baek Na-Kyum became a drunk.
The moment Yoon Seungho opens the door and sees the artist’s drunkenness, he can’t help commenting about the poor state of the commoner: “What a sight!” So the painter should have realized the contradiction between the face he was seeing and the voice.
So now, there is only one element left to comment. Why does the painter believe to see his teacher opening the door of his chamber?
From my point of view, the alcohol is not the only explication. To me, it just unleashed his unconscious. It lowered his guard, he wished the return of his loved one. But if he had paid attention to the voice, he should have perceived the difference in the voice. Never mind, if you look at the pictures above, you’ll notice two things. When he hears the door opening and hears the comment, he turns his head so that he can’t pay attention to the voice itself, his desire is so strong that he imagines to see the teacher’s face. However, from that moment, he doesn’t look at the person’s standing in front of him. He walks towards Yoon Seungho while looking down and covering his face, then when he confesses his love, he is not even looking at the person’s face. (chapter 19) When he kisses the lord, his eyes are closed too. So the illusion was just for a brief moment, the readers were misled by Byeonduck. All this time, we have to envision that this is Yoon Seungho standing there. The drunkenness gave the uke the courage to confess his love but at the same time, it was just a wish that the low noble would be there. What caught my attention is that moment, they kiss each other, the painter is no longer able to discern the partner’s face. (chapter 21) We have to wonder why. My explanation is the following. Deep down, the uke knew that Jung In-Hun would never have sex with him, would never accept his feelings. However, his unconscious, meaning his repressed sexual desires, was unleashed, he wanted to have sex with a man, he had already dreamed of it twice and each time, it was with the powerful noble. So the painter’s unconscious allowed him to reveal his true sexual orientation, something he had kept hidden due to the brainwashing. So the alcohol not only reveals the chagrin caused by the rejection, it helped the painter to reveal his true desires and identity. That’s why the artist couldn’t remember the night spent with the powerful lord, it was like a dream and we all know that we always forget dreams.
And this leads me to the following observations and conclusion. The lord had no idea that the painter’s rejection and refusal were caused by the teacher’s coercive persuasion. He only thought that the genuine love felt for the teacher was the cause and they had a special relationship from the start. Sure, he discovered later that they had never entered into a physical relationship but he only explained this as an one-sided crush. Furthermore he knows the low noble’s true personality and anticipated that the learned sir would use the painter in order to obtain favors as soon as the existence of the deal is revealed.
But imagine his reaction when he gets aware of Jung In-Hun’s true behavior. The latter abused his loved one emotionally and physically, he was the real cause for the painter’s rejection as he had been indoctrinated that sodomy was dirty and filthy. Not only the powerful noble but also the painter suffered indirectly due to him. This would have changed a lot of things if the noble had met the artist much earlier… The uke wouldn’t have been forced to make a vow, wouldn’t have been hurt… the master wouldn’t have pushed to rape the painter because in reality the latter was indeed attracted by Yoon Seungho, like the two wet dreams unveiled it. Imagine the lord’s chagrin and regret, the moment the past is revealed. Only in the chapter 33, Baek Na-Kyum’s repressed memories of the physical abuse resurfaced and we only saw a glimpse of it… just a picture indicating that he must have repressed much more. So how will Yoon Seungho react, when the truth is unveiled? I doubt that he will remain inactive. We saw that his love for the painter was the trigger for the lord to become proactive. It will be interesting to see if the master seeks revenge on the former teacher. This could be the other reason why the noble ensures that Baek Na-Kyum surpasses his former admired sir in his career. I am quite sure that he won’t spare Jung In-Hun and make sure that he gets hurt physically too.
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