Women and East Asian Art

Waiting for Drinks to be Served at Hongnu

The painting “Waiting for Drinks to be Served at Hongnu” by artist Shin Yun-bok dates back to the Joseon era in Korea. Gaining recognition for his portrayals of daily life, especially that of gisaengs and noblemen (6). Although Shin descended from a lineage of court painters, he often included more eroticism in his paintings. The painting depicts a gisaeng sitting on the floor accompanied by three men in a small room. A servant approaches the room with a drink in one hand, while

Waiting for Drinks to be Served at Hongnu, Shin Yun-Bok, 1758-1858, color on paper, w35.6 x h28.2 cm

leading a naked child in the other. In comparison to the dull earthy colors of the scenery, both women are depicted wearing blue. The gisaeng within the entertainment room becomes the most noticeable figure due to her elaborate hair piece and flowing navy blue garment. At first glance the men do not appear interested in the gisaeng, as two of them focus more on smoking and the other stares off into the distance. The gisaeng herself is not doing anything particularly entertaining as she is simply drawn sitting. Despite this apparent “boring” atmosphere, the men are choosing to stay close to the gisaeng rather than leave her to find someone else. This demonstrates the alluring affect these women had over the

Waiting for Drinks to be Served at Hongnu, Shin Yun-Bok, 1758-1858, color on paper, w35.6 x h28.2 cm

noblemen; meaning they did not need to do much to capture their attention. The women bringing the drinks juxtaposes the role of the gisaeng in the entertainment room. She is helping the child walk while they both look at each other. An important role of females in society involved being a good mother. Thus the women holding the drinks also serves as an attractive figure in the painting. Yet, it is evident that she is headed towards the entertainment room to serve the drinks, putting the needs of the men above the needs of the child. The women displays her respect for men, while she tends to her child as a working mother would do. Shin contrast of the gisaeng and the drink bearer portrays the subtle power women held over noblemen. The viewer is shown two forms of beauty; the alluring nature of a courtesan and the image of a capable mother. 



(6) “Hyewon Shin Yunbok,” blogspot, http://koreascentpeopleculture.blogspot.com/2013/03/hyewon-shin-yunbok.html, (2013)

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