This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes.
Now, you are thinking that I’m going to talk about the relationship between Yoon Seungho and Baek Na-Kyum and question if they will have a happy ending. But no, you guessed it wrong. In reality, my main purpose is to examine the protagonist’s relationship with his childhood friend Lee Jihwa. Why could Jihwa never become the lord’s true love, although the folks in the town knew about their close relationship, even considering him as the lord’s mistress? Therefore my main topic will be to explain why Jihwa’s love for his friend was doomed. But before examining their relationship, we need to elaborate Yoon Seungho’s thinking as it played a role in their doomed love.
First, it is important to explain the lord’s deepest wish which is unveiled in the chapter 55. Here, the noble admits two things. First, he wants to be admired. Secondly, he would like to see the admiration in the painter’s eyes. This signifies that he desires to see a very positive image of himself in the painter’s gaze. He would like to be seen as worthy to be adored. This observation is important as it confirms the very pessimistic image the lord has about himself. Remember what I wrote about the main lead. He fears his own reflection and as such mirrors that’s why he needs Kim to dress him properly. As you can detect, for the main lead, the reflection is central and I would even say, it is vital. No wonder, if his gaze is also the mirror of his soul either. To him, the eyes are the only proof of his own existence, since he has been viewing himself as a spirit. A ghost can see but never feel or touch. They are supposed to be invisible, yet they observe the livings silently.
But the eyes are also important for another reason. The gaze can serve as a mirror of his own reflection that’s why the lord has always shown an interest for eyes and paintings. In the pictures, the figures have eyes and reflect emotions. This explicates why the protagonist was aroused the moment he viewed the painter’s first publication. The drawings oozed warmth and love which could only moved the main lead’s heart. And when he met Baek Na-Kyum for the first time, he could recognize the artist’s personality: honesty and genuineness. He was so transparent despite his lie. We shouldn’t forget that transparency is related to reflection. Glass and water are transparent but also possess reflective features. This is no coincidence that eyes are quite similar to glass and water (tears). Strictly speaking, the painter’s eyes and face were so transparent that the lord could see the artist’s pure soul. At the same time, they were able to mirror admiration. In other words, the painter’s gaze reflected innocence and adoration, something the lord had been longing. That’s why the aristocrat could only become more and more attracted to the painter. In two occasions before their wedding night, he saw in the painter’s face love and admiration, in the chapter 4, where the painter cries for the scholar’s poem and accuses Seungho of being a man consumed by lust and in the chapter 7, when Jung In-Hun arrives at the mansion. From my perspective, the low-born’s words, facial expressions and eyes made Yoon Seungho realize that the admiration and love he was seeking truly existed and was even possible. And he wished to be the recipient of that admiration.
Since he had such a negative image about himself, it is not surprising why he could only be attracted by the painter’s gaze. This adoration could make him feel worthy and alive, this would erase the bad image he had about himself. The artist’s purity and abnegation are the reasons why Seungho couldn’t take off his eyes from the painter. He sensed attraction in Baek Na-Kyum’s eyes and saw himself as handsome and charismatic. This is not astonishing that the man fell more and more in love with the painter and couldn’t push away the artist the moment the latter confessed to him during their first night. He knew, this confession was addressed to the teacher, yet he had heard exactly what he had always wished to experience himself. The love declaration implies not only the gaze and the reflection but also the purity and selflessness. Moreover, the love here is spiritual and has nothing to do with beauty and superficiality. He adores the man for his talent, intelligence and education.
And now, if you look at all the drawings Byeonduck created for the fans, [I would like to thanks @masteryoonsimp and @shin_chan332 for their help to gather these] you’ll notice one common denominator. Yoon Seungho gazes at Baek Na-Kyum every time. For me, it truly shows the noble’s thinking. He has to see the painter’s gaze in order to seek approval and love, through the reflection of his eyes, he feels alive and loved. Without the painter’s eyes, he would remain a spirit with a terrible image of himself. It helps him to accept himself and since his eyes are always directed at the low-born, he will make sure that the painter feels secure and happy. As a conclusion, the lord’s leitmotiv is: “I see love and acceptance in the painter’s eyes, hence I am a man worthy of affection and adoration. I am neither a man consumed by lust nor a spirit”.
This explicates why in the chapter 55, he doesn’t even dare to look at the painter’s gaze. He fears to see hatred and rejection because he has made a huge mistake. He almost destroyed the artist’s purity hence his eyes were void of any real and genuine emotion due to the wine and the drug. It was as if he had soiled the man. No wonder why the lord got shocked and pained after seeing this gaze. He felt so guilty and since he has such a self-hatred, he could only blame himself for this terrible situation. Therefore he had already imagined the artist’s reaction. He would hear the same words than in the bathroom. As a first conclusion, the painter’s purity, spirituality, honesty and abnegation reflected in the painter’s face are the reasons why Yoon Seungho was bewitched. It gave him hope to judge himself in a better light.
And now, it is time to focus on Lee Jihwa. The red-haired noble has always loved his friend and imagined that with time, he would be able to get the lord’s affection. But the problem is that Jihwa is a vain and selfish person which is reflected in many occasions. He keeps looking at his reflection (chapter 3 chapter 41). He visits his friend without making an appointment and buys a spy in order to observe the lord’s moves. Finally he plays tricks in order to get rid of a possible rival. So he is very different from Baek Na-Kyum embodying spirituality, honesty and abnegation. And since he keeps looking at his own reflection, I come to the conclusion that he was actually waiting to see admiration in the lord’s gaze. The moment Jihwa would have sensed that adoration was reflected in Seungho’s eyes, the red-haired aristocrat would have become more honest and expressed his love for his friend. As you can observe, it was impossible right from the start as the lord’s low self-esteem and even self-hatred could never give such a reflection. The protagonist was looking exactly for the same admiration. Since Jihwa was scared to unveil his feelings, his gaze and facial expressions were never genuine. That’s why for example, in the chapter 12, behind his smiles, he was actually upset to see how the incident with the ruined painting hadn’t ruined the relationship between his friend and the low-born. He tried to influence his friend by disgracing the painter but the main lead was no fool. He could perceive the intentions behind his words. Therefore the lord could never fall in love with his friend. The latter was never honest, hence his face was in reality a mask of deception.
But let’s not forget that in order to get noticed by Yoon Seungho, Lee Jihwa had decided to become Yoon Seungho’s regular lover hoping that through their intimacy, the friend would feel the love he needed and would fall in love with him. As you can see, Jihwa envisaged to use sex as a way to get closer to his friend. He thought that not revealing his true feelings was better, since he wanted to see adoration in the lord’s gaze. In other words, they were looking precisely for what the other wanted to get: admiration and affection in the counterpart’s gaze. Yet both were not willing to make the first step, hence Jihwa’s love for his friend was doomed. Moreover, he made a huge mistake. He thought, sex would bring him closer to Yoon Seungho, while the latter saw in it a way to show his power and strength. For the lord, sex was always like a fight and was not associated to love. Hence according to his philosophy, Jihwa was just an enemy he always defeated and in no way a lover. As you can see, their relationship was like a vicious circle. Jihwa’s love would have never come true as he wasn’t really aware of Seungho’s true needs and thoughts. He has no idea about his self-hatred and his real vulnerability. He knows about his past but that doesn’t mean that he knows his secrets: his PTSD, his suicidal thoughts, his guilt, his shame. Besides, Jihwa would like to be admired hence we can say, his selfishness stands in the way to fully grasp Seungho’s personality. Besides, Jihwa can not expect from his friend to make the first step, since Yoon Seungho is so insecure and weak. We could say, both are selfish therefore it is not possible to give what the other needs.
As you can detect, the lord’s personality plays a huge importance in their doomed love. He is terribly sick and needs a responsible and strong person. Like my follower @Thakhesiz pointed out, Yoon Seungho, might be even suffering from Borderline personality disorder as he shows many symptoms from this mental health disorder:
- emotional instability – the psychological term for this is “affective dysregulation”: An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection; rage sorrow, terror, panic, long-term feelings of emptiness and loneliness
- disturbed patterns of thinking or perception – “cognitive distortions” or “perceptual distortions” : upsetting thoughts – such as thinking you’re a terrible person or feeling you do not exist. You may not be sure of these thoughts and may seek reassurance that they’re not true
- impulsive behaviour: Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection; a strong impulse to engage in reckless and irresponsible activities – such as binge drinking, drug misuse, going on a spending or gambling spree, or having unprotected sex with strangers
- intense but unstable relationships with others https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms/ https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237
I have to admit that I am no psychologist but after reading this list, you can sense the similarities. As for the causes, many patients suffering from this disorder were exposed to abuse or abandonment or neglect.
- being a victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- being exposed to long-term fear or distress as a child
- being neglected by 1 or both parents https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/causes/
Sure, the scientists explain that there are other causes as well (genetics, problems with the brain). But like I mentioned above, the abuse and abandonment play a huge role and we know for sure that the castration (the incident with the top-knot) affected the noble so much that he felt rejected and abandoned because he saw a disapproving gaze in his father’s eyes. The image reflected in his father’s eye gave him such a negative image about himself, that he could only hate himself. And this image made me think of a famous monster, Medusa. In Greek mythology, Medusa was a beautiful person before she turned into the monster. One of the legends says that she got raped by Poseidon in a temple dedicated to Athena. The goddess got so angry that she punished the victim and cursed her to have a head full of snakes and a gaze that turns men to stone. A victim turned into a monster… it really sounds similar to our story. We could say that the father’s gaze turned the protagonist into a Medusa. Only the painter is able to face the main lead’s eyes and not to turn into a stone. To summarize, our main lead is a person with huge psychological issues and the gaze plays a huge role in his life. It helped him to survive but at the same time, it was a curse as well because he never saw any positive reflection in people’s eyes. And deep down, Jihwa’s conscious has always known that his friend’s eyes were the mirror of his soul therefore in his nightmare, he sees his friend’s gaze empty of any expression. He knows that if the painter is killed, the lord will lose his will to live. He will turn into a spirit for real. Deep down, Jihwa has always sensed it but ignored it because his desire to be admired was stronger than to give admiration and affection to his friend.
Since we described Jihwa as a spoiled child, how can he give comfort to such a person who is already suffering from PTSD but could also have a Borderline personality disorder? The protagonist needs to find a person with a big heart, strong determination and courage, someone who is willing to show understanding but at the same time, show certain limits. As you can imagine, Baek Na-Kyum fits the profile. And the painter’s honesty was the other reason why Yoon Seungho felt comfortable with him because the commoner never faked anything. The fact that in their confrontation, the artist was brutally sincere and direct made the lord realize that he was seen and he was feeling something, even if the words and gaze were not what he wanted. At least, he was perceived as a person, while the others only interacted with the master of deception, who was a spirit in reality. Besides, Baek Na-Kyum who has already experienced abandonment and rejection can understand the noble’s fear better. Besides, the painter possesses another quality. Let’s not forget that Jung In-Hun has pushed the painter 3 times and the latter never gave up on his affection. It chnaged, the moment the low noble showed his true thoughts. The painter saw a very negative image about himself. So he has been put through something similar.
As for Jihwa, he needs to find someone selfless too, who will perceive his purity. From my point of view, the red-haired noble got his heart corrupted (jealousy, his need for admiration, vanity) because of the bad influence from the other nobles. He had met the wrong people and had adopted their way of thinking.
Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and the support.