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/
As you can imagine, with this title, I am referring to valet Kim. He’s the only one who was present, when the two protagonists confessed. In chapter 20, he stood next to the door, as he was following his master with the light. He heard the painter’s confession addressed to the scholar. Thus he was well aware that his master was seizing the opportunity to make a move on Baek Na-Kyum, which he could only disapprove. That’s why he remained there, until the lord reacted to his passivity. This explains why Yoon Seungho had to order him to close the door by whispering. With his command, the noble forced him to obey him. Here, their dynamic changed. In that moment, the loyal valet became just a servant who needed to listen to his master’s orders. And his presence during their “Wedding night” marked a turning point in the butler’s life as well. From that moment, he started acting more and more like a surrogate father or mother, though the noble treated him more and more like a domestic. This opposition is really perceptible in chapter 50: But let’s return our attention to the first season. After witnessing this “Wedding night”, the butler never divulged this incident to others. The manhwaphiles should question the cause and the signification for the butler’s behavior. He couldn’t approve such a relationship for two reasons. First, this would create a scandal. For Kim, this meant that the other aristocrats would distance themselves from Yoon Seungho, since the butler has already internalized social values. Totally isolated, the noble would become more vulnerable. Therefore he could become the target of other aristocrats. In my eyes, Kim had imposed his own philosophy on Yoon Seungho: knowledge is power, but he needs to lie low. (chapter 23) That’s why I come to the following conclusion: Kim might have been the Best man, yet in reality he was refusing to acknowledge this alliance. And now, the readers can grasp why he said those words in chapter 23. He was acting like a father disapproving the partner’s choice of his “son”. Hence he tried to advice the painter not to remember that night His rejection was quite simple. He saw in the painter not only a source of trouble, but also a threat to his position. If the artist became the lord’s official partner, the valet would lose his position as the master’s right-hand. This explicates too why Kim favored Jihwa and why the latter was so jealous and never satisfied with his position. The red-haired aristocrat never recognized that Kim was one of the reasons why he couldn’t get closer to his childhood friend. The childhood friend sensed that he didn’t have the lord’s confidence. All his knowledge came from the butler’s revelations: (chapter 36) (chapter 59). The second lead is only aware of a name and of the prostitution.
From my point of view, the butler never acted like a father before, until Baek Na-Kyum appeared. The valet was pushed to reveal his closeness to his master (chapter 12), before he decided to act like a father. Consequently, the more time passed on, the more the butler meddled in the life of both protagonists. Because of the organized escape, the lord became so infuriated and hurt that Kim was not even spared from the beating(chapter 30). This action was clearly reminding the butler that he was in the end just a servant. Hence Kim resigned and had to support his lord’s choice. Yet, what he did is the following: he attempted to turn the artist into a prostitute or “favored servant”. At no moment, Baek Na-Kyum should be recognized as the master’s official partner. Therefore he asked the doctor for an aphrodisiac for the painter, or he hid the information about the incident at the library (chapter 50). He had to ensure that the noble would never recognize the nature of his feelings for the painter. This explicates why he criticized the artist for acting like a spoiled child (chapter 52). When he asked him to visit the lord’s chamber, he was reminding the artist of his situation: he was just a servant. Simultaneously, he wanted him to go to Yoon Seungho’s bedroom in order to witness that he had no special status, he was not a treasure. He incited the artist to see with his own eyes the master’s debauchery and feel disgusted. He hoped with such a situation, the artist would run away. Kim was well aware that the aristocrat was starving for love. In other words, till chapter 58, the butler was denying the existence of the Wedding and their union. He refused to be their Best man.
But in order to create a riff between the two main characters, the butler had to act like a surrogate father towards the painter as well. By acting so, he would get his trust and could manipulate him. This explicates why valet Kim kept helping the painter by taking care of him or defending him or buying material or by hiding his special status from the town folks. On the surface, it looked like the butler had adopted him. Yet, if you pay attention to his actions, you’ll realize that none of these actions were helping the artist. Deok-Jae didn’t get punished and got the opportunity to insult the victim. The “ghost fiancée” was stigmatized as a person consumed by sex, just like his lover. He brought the painter to the doctor without his master’s authorization. He was abusing his position exposing his true mindset. Therefore this created the impression to Yoon Seungho that Baek Na-Kyum could escape. (chapter 58)
As you can note, the servant acted like a surrogate father to both characters in order to achieve his goal: separate the couple and maintain his position as the master’s right-hand. Because Yoon Seungho was his master, the butler couldn’t scold him or disapprove his actions so openly. Hence he had to act in the shadow. He didn’t report the argument between Jung In-Hun and the painter, because he knew how the lord would react. He would become so furious that he could create a scandal. By revealing it as late as possible, he gave Yoon Seungho the feeling that he had not been chosen in reality. Baek Na-Kyum had remained by his side, as the scholar had just abandoned the painter. On the other hand, he could behave like a father towards the painter more openly, for as their status is similar. This explicates why he reprimanded Baek Na-Kyum, and never did it towards Yoon Seungho.
Since he was present right from the start (chapter 16 and chapter 20 , he could sense that Baek Na-Kyum could become his master’s wife. That’s why I consider him as their Best man, but it was against his will. And in chapter 58, the manhwalovers didn’t see him, but he was definitely present, when the lord confessed to the painter. Yes, in this panel the bucket of water is an allusion to valet Kim. In chapter 56, the butler was carrying himself a bucket. Besides, remember what Baek Na-Kyum said in chapter 57. The assistant was supposed to fetch water, and observe the smoke coming from the bucket. It indicates that Kim has just left it there. Hence this means that he must have heard Yoon Seungho’s confession: This means that he witnessed how the painter was no longer rejecting Yoon Seungho. The artist might have not confessed, but this was enough for the butler. The latter could sense that it was only a matter of time, until the artist falls for his lord. The latter had finally opened up and revealed his vulnerability. When I saw how the shoes were aligned, my first impression was that Kim was responsible for this. I judged this simple gesture as a act of thoughtfulness and respect. Yet, if you look at the disposition of the shoes, you’ll realize that they are placed so that the owners can put immediately the shoes on, as if they would leave the place very soon, a sign for disapproval in my eyes. Yet, he didn’t interrupt them. Whereas one might say that Kim desired to respect their privacy and even supported his master by not stopping him, it could be interpreted differently. Here, he acted, as if nothing was happening. He was again denying the existence of their union. This explicates why he never mentioned the night to his master in chapter 62: (chapter 62). He could have talked to Yoon Seungho that he had heard how the artist had reacted to his confession. In other words, he was still refusing to become their Best Man, though he had a second chance. He knew how much the artist meant to him and because he was sick and shouldn’t have sex, Kim recognized the signification of that moment. And the last panel mirrors the evolution of Kim’s position. He’s getting further away from his master. That’s why he is invisible. He is in reality the invisible hand, the puppet master who played with Yoon Seungho and Baek Na-Kyum’s fate. However, this panel reveals that he is no longer able to act like before. He can no longer control them, as he doesn’t perceive them correctly. His judgement is influenced by his own experiences and social norms he has strongly internalized. He only judges this love session as another sex session. The lord is so obsessed with the painter that despite his illness, he has sex with him: an addiction. For me, he didn’t interrupt them out of respect. He wanted this incident to remain unknown. He refused to acknowledge their relationship. This signifies that he rejected to be their Best man.
Striking is that when in chapter 70, the servant brought the painter to the bathroom (chapter 70), he was acting on Kim’s order. Due to the way the domestic closed the door, you could sense that he was resenting the artist. (chapter 70). The latter had created so much trouble in two days: his supposed escape and the kisaeng’s appearance. However, by “playing cupid”, the servant was actually acting as their “Best Man”. In my eyes, he hoped, the artist would stop rejecting his master. There’s no doubt that after this night, the staff was happy. This explicates why Kim ends up in the backyard. The head-maid and the male servants have come to realize that Baek Na-Kyum is playing an important role in their master’s life. (chapter 51). (chapter 64) After each disappearance, the staff would get into trouble. This leads me to the following conclusion: The real Best men are Yoon Seungho’s domestics, for they accept this union and relationship.
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