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/
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1. The caress on the child’s foot
The author released this picture on Twitter yesterday, and naturally this made many people happy, for Jung In-Hun was stroking Baek Na-Kyum’s foot gently. How could people identify the characters, though we don’t see their faces? Simply by the clothes! The manhwaphiles remember the painter’s grey pants and the learned sir’s favorite color, lavender, (chapter 19) (chapter 68). While many manhwalovers found this image cute , something else came to my mind. A question. Why did Byeonduck create such a panel? One might say that she is showing us the painter’s past. Here, he is a young boy, for his foot is so small. He is carried on the learned sir’s shoulders like a little boy. Due to the presence of the light bubbles, refraction, I deduce that this picture represents a happy memory from the artist. He felt loved and warm in that moment.
2. The strolls
However, what caught my attention is that the young scholar was strolling through the countryside with the boy. In the background, you can see the fields and trees. This means that this scene embodies the positive reflection of this night: (chapter 70) The manhwalovers can immediately detect the contrasts: the visages of the protagonists versus the hand and the foot, day versus night, sun versus moon. That’s the reason why I came to the deduction that this image embodies a happy memory of the painter: sadness versus happiness.
On the other hand, these two situations have something in common: the learned sir is wearing the same clothes (a lavender hanbok) and he is walking through the countryside. But why? In order to get an answer to this, it is important to remember why the painter was forced to follow the learned sir during the night. It is because the artist had witnessed Yoon Seungho’s sequestration and abuse, whereas he thought that his noona had been mistreated. . (chapter 68) This means that Baek Na-Kyum was removed, because he was a witness and could generate a scandal. He is beloved by the kisaengs. However, back then, he got misled due to Heena’s indoctrination and false impressions. When he saw this, he was only looking at his noona, hence he didn’t pay attention to the actions of the black guard. Moreover, he had no idea why Heena and Yoon Seungho were behaving like that. So when the painter recalled Jung In-Hun from that night, he was no longer heartbroken, because the stroll with the scholar came to his mind. (chapter 70). The trigger for this recollection was his farewell to Heena. This time, he could say goodbye to Heena properly by embracing her and giving her a scarf so that she would remember him. In the painter’s mind, after that night, he would never see her again. (chapter 69) In other words, this night represented a closure for Baek Na-Kyum, the end of his abandonment issues. In episode 70, Jung In-Hun had consoled him, he had tried to cheer him up. Thus the learned sir was smiling. Yet, this couldn’t cover the painter’s scar. He felt that he had betrayed Heena, for he had not been able to protect her. It was, as if he had run away. Nevertheless, when this incident occurred, the learned sir had not run away from the gibang, because you could see that Baek Na-Kyum was wearing socks and shoes. (chapter 70) The man had put the shoes on the child, as in the building, the painter only had his socks on. Because of the presence of the socks, (chapter 68), I deduce that this walk must have taken place in a colder season (fall) while in this picture, Jung In-Hun was carrying the painter on his shoulders in the summer. No one would question why the artist had no sock or no shoe, and the manhwalovers can see the shadow of leaves from the trees on the hanbok. One might object to this distinction between fall and summer, because (chapter 70) the trees in the background still have their leaves. This point can be easily refuted, for in South Korea you can find typical evergreen broad-leaved species like camellias and camphor trees. But there exists another reason why I am associating this scene to fall and not spring or winter. It is because this image
represents the reflection from another episode: (chapter 102) In both scenes, the main lead is seen with bare feet. He is also carried by his loved one. But here, it is snowing, hence this signifies that it is winter. On the other hand, the manhwalovers can detect the presence of a purple flower on the right side. This signifies that Spring is on its way. That’s how I came to realize why Baek Na-Kyum is now recalling the learned sir’s gesture from the past.
He felt loved because of the learned sir’s caress, but in my opinion, this affection was superficial, as the warmth was coming more from the sun than from the learned sir.
In reality, this scene was actually exposing the teacher’s fleeting and superficial affection. But how do I come to this conclusion? By simply contrasting this scene with the one from chapter 102. Now imagine the situation in your mind. Both main leads are walking in the mountain (chapter 102) where it is even colder than in the valley, secondly it is snowing and there is no sun, only the moonlight. So the moment Yoon Seungho witnessed that Baek Na-Kyum was alive, he must have recognized the seriousness of the situation. Since Baek Na-Kyum had only a hanbok on, he could die of hypothermia. What he had imagined for himself, death, had terrible consequences. He could be the reason for the painter’s curtains. So in my opinion, he must have warmed the painter’s feet with his hands, a new version of this scene: Through the comparison, the artist can only sense the lord’s selflessness and deep love for Baek Na-Kyum. He will do anything for him. And now, you comprehend why the painter was reminded of the past. Yoon Seungho is slowly taking over the scholar’s role. But this doesn’t end here.
By comparing these two scenes, another contrast come to the surface. Yoon Seungho went to the mountain to bury the painter and to commit his suicide. This means that this stroll is associated to death, while the walk with the learned sir embodies the opposite: life and joy. However, as you can imagine, this is just an illusion. Because the moment the lord realized that his lover was still alive, he made the opposite decision. He is now fighting to remain alive. The painter has become the lord’s source of strength. Without him, Baek Na-Kyum can die and can even become the target of filthy and violent nobles. This means that after this stroll, the lord is forced to give up on his suicidal thoughts for good. Hence I deduce that in this image, the opposite must have happened to the painter. There was a change too: Here, he felt happy and loved… yet at the end, he must have felt guilty. Why? It is related to Heena. According to me, in this scene, she had used the painter as a shield. (chapter 94) His presence was to divert the attention from these men so that she wouldn’t be asked to have sex with them. And since I have already detected that each time, the painter suffered, karma would retaliate, the logical consequence is that Heena got punished for her wrong action. This signifies that while the painter was following the learned sir, his noona was abused in the kisaeng house. This would explicate why later she had no remorse to turn Yoon Seungho into a victim. And don’t forget that the painter was much younger than in this scene. (chapter 68) However, since the painter’s legs are longer than in the image from chapter 94, , I deduce that the scholar went for a walk with the painter, the latter was a little older. And this brings me to the following observation: the scholar’s walks were never random. They had a purpose which stands in opposition to Yoon Seungho’s behavior. (chapter 45) (chapter 75) The latter would let his partner walk through town in order to please him. He would even follow the painter. In other words, it was always for the painter’s sake, and in the mountain, it was the same. But it was not the same for Jung In-Hun, it was for his own benefit. We have the best example in chapter 10: (chapter 10) Here, he desired to separate the couple. Baek Na-Kyum should refuse to paint erotic pictures.
That’s how I come to the deduction that Jung In-Hun had taken away the artist from the gibang on purpose, to separate Baek Na-Kyum from his noona Heena. Hence I am assuming that during that day, something must have happened in the gibang. Like mentioned above, she could have been hurt during the painter’s absence. That’s the reason why the painter developed self-hatred. But there exists another possibility. Since this scene took place during the day, I think that the learned sir didn’t mind of being seen contrary to his attitude in town: (chapter 29) He could definitely meet peasants in the countryside. As you can see, Baek Na-Kyum is wearing clothes for low-borns, hence no one will question why he has no socks and no shoes. The learned sir looks like a generous and humble scholar, who doesn’t care about social status and origins, for he is carrying the painter. This stands in opposition to the stroll during the night: (chapter 70): The artist is dressed with good clothes, he looks more like a young master than a commoner, only the shoes are indicating that he is a commoner. That’s the reason why I believe that during that night, the learned sir was avoiding people. They could have wondered why the young boy was carried in his night clothes outside. From my point of view, this scene is strongly connected to Heena and the suffering in the kisaeng house. The other reason for this theory is that this panel is strongly intertwined with episode 29, where the learned sir had gone on a walk too, but this time without the painter. Here, he had a girl on his laps. (chapter 29) He had already been seen with a girl before who seems to like him either. (chapter 6) Thus I couldn’t help myself wondering if the learned sir was not directly involved in prostitution, bringing girls to the gibang and even covering up for the sexual child abuse. We shouldn’t forget that the pedophile was portrayed as a man consumed by lust who would never pay attention to the time and the hour. (chapter 1) Hence the painter had to leave the gibang during the day as well.
To conclude, though this panel seems to ooze happiness and warmth, I believe in the opposite. It is connected to pain and suffering. That’s the reason why I am convinced that this recollection will help the painter to move on from his self-hatred as well. He won’t feel guilty towards his noona, for she definitely manipulated him, especially at the end of season 3. And this would mirror the lord’s transformation, both are overcoming their traumas: self-loathing and abandonment issues.
3. The learned sir’s hanboks
At the same time, since I realized that the painter embodies memories and is the witness of the lord’s downfall and lord Song’s crimes, I came to the following theory: Jung In-Hun was involved in the torment of people in the gibang, but Heena never realized it. She preferred blaming nobles. Jung In-Hun’s role was to ensure the absence of scandal. Under this new light, it becomes comprehensible why the learned sir’s karma was to die incognito. Since he had contributed to cover up and ensure that there was no witness and ruckus, he should suffer the same way. On the other hand, since he contributed to the painter’s happiness, as he was his only friend, I believe that at some point, his death will cause a huge scandal. And before closing this essay, I would like the readers to remind that the teacher didn’t wear all the time a lavender hanbok!! When he first met the main lead, his clothes were rather light green. (chapter 6) (chapter 7) (chapter 7) This change is not random in my eyes. I had already associated the learned sir to a chameleon. This change of color seems to validate my theory that Jung In-Hun had been sponsored by Min, hence we have the light green. Black Heart is symbolized by green. However, the light pigment reflects that he had been abandoned and betrayed. Nonetheless, when he encountered Yoon Seungho, the latter was wearing a purple hanbok. (chapter 6) That’s how the man got influenced and chose to wear his lavender hanboks again. But he never realized that behind the young noble, there was standing the pedophile, someone he had helped in the past. From my point of view, the change of the learned sir’s hanbok was the indication of his betrayal. According to me, the old bearded man (chapter 37) was not a former servant, but the pedophile. So he could have recognized the learned sir thanks to his hanbok… just like the readers did with this picture:
The purple hanbok is the common denominator between the mysterious lord Song (chapter 83), the topknot incident (chapter 1) and the couple. (chapter 102) At the end of season 3, both are now wearing a purple hanbok, though their pigment is slightly different. And what have all these chapters in common?
4. Love and feet
The main leads are bare feet. (chapter 83) According to me, in the painter’s vision from episode 1, the braided man is Yoon Seungho. The absence of shoes and socks was in truth an indication of neglect and abuse, but the warmth and gentleness from that scene deceived the painter: If the learned sir had been so caring, he should have let him wear shoes or socks. Here he was forced to rely on the learned sir. The latter should have ensured for the painter’s education either. He didn’t read a book with him during that day. In reality, the author let us see what true adoration and affection is: (chapter 73) From my point of view, the intimacy in the bedchamber stands in opposition to the teacher’s gesture in the countryside. His caress was just a casual gesture with no real deep meaning in the end. This explicates why he could betray and abandon the artist on so many occasions in season 1 (chapter 11, 24, 25, 29, 35, 40). The learned sir had always prioritized his own interests.
And if my prediction is correct by contrasting this memory to this scene (chapter 102), the painter should realize the difference. (chapter 68) Yoon Seungho’s love is deep and real, it is never changing. And the embrace in the snow confirmed it. (chapter 102) The lord let the painter cry, (chapter 70) talk and ask questions before apologizing and hugging him. The lord never acted, as if nothing had happened, (chapter 102) This was true love and Baek Na-Kyum’s feet always reflect his emotions: (chapter 58) (chapter 80) So now, imagine how the painter must feel if the lord took his feet in his hands! This is no coincidence that there is this saying:
Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.
And now, you comprehend the importance of the foot prints (chapter 100) (chapter 102) and the zooms on the feet: (chapter 53) The couple was following their heart!! But this was not the case with the scholar. Baek Na-Kyum had no other choice than to follow Jung In-Hun.
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