Go Book a Chance to See “Portrait of a Beauty” Right Now. No, Not the Movie.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes. Images, L-R: a “Gangnam beauty”; the original “Mi-in-do/Portrait of a Beauty” by Sin Yun-bok; and a poster of the 2008 movie of the same name. Sources: Awesome Pick, 기냥 보는 재미…원미동통신, and 연예계 뒷담화.

I’m working on a piece about a very rare, arguably feminist example of 18th Century Korean Rückenfigur art at the moment, as one does. The artist Yun Yong, some claim, was the real painter behind “Portrait of a Beauty,” not the much better-known—but still awesome—Sin Yun-bok.

Or so I thought, until I learned that controversy was actually about the “Gosan (고산) Portrait of a Beauty,” which looks very similar and often has the “Gosan” omitted from its title (sigh).

Either way, Google perused my complicated browsing history, put two and two together, and alerted me to this news video about a week-long exhibition of it going on at the National Museum of Korea at the moment:

Apologies that I’m only just finding out about it now, and that this provincial Busanite has no information about how to book tickets to Seoul museums. But for the determined, hopefully there’s still some spaces available for the remaining three days of the exhibition.

Update: Here is the link to book tickets :)

다시 문 연 박물관…’미인도’ 내일부터 연장 전시 Museum Reopens Its Doors, “Portrait of a Beauty” Extended Exhibition Begins Tomorrow

Saturday October 3

[앵커] 한국의 모나리자로 불리는 ‘미인도’가 내일(5일)부터 국립중앙박물관에서 다시 관람객들을 맞이합니다.

Anchor: Called the Korean Mona Lisa, “Portrait of a Beauty” welcomes visitors again at the National Museum of Korea from Monday the 5th. [James—Not technically “tomorrow”; YTN got its dates wrong!]

코로나19 여파로 닫혔던 박물관이 다시 문을 열면서 특별전시회 기간도 조금 연장했습니다.

As the original exhibition ended prematurely when the museum was closed in the summer due to the Corona-19 pandemic, this special exhibition was slightly extended.

김혜은 기자가 보도합니다.

Reporter Kim Hye-eun reports.

[기자] 구름 같은 가체 머리에 둥글고 앳된 얼굴, 살포시 아래를 향한 얇고 긴 눈매.

Reporter Kim: A cloud-like gachae [traditional Korean wig] with a round and youthful face, and thin, long eyes looking gently downwards.

웃는 듯 아닌 듯 속내를 알 수 없는 표정이 백미입니다.

The viewer not being able to tell is she is smiling or not, her impenetrable expression is one of the highlights of the painting.

목 뒤의 잔머리나 붉은 삼작노리개를 매만지는 섬세한 손 등 세밀한 묘사가 돋보입니다.

The extraordinary detail of the depiction stands out, such as in the fine hair at the back of the neck, and in the delicacy of the hand with which she’s tying the red three-piece norigae [a traditional ornament worn by women].

조선 후기 고관대작들의 초상화에나 사용했던 세밀화 기법이 여인의 초상화에 등장한 겁니다.

In the late Joseon Dynasty, this technique of incorporating small details was used in portraits of high-ranking women.

[강경남 / 국립중앙박물관 학예사: 머리털 한 올 한 올, 한복의 깃까지 굉장히 아름다운 색을 쓰고 세필로 정성스럽게 그려 넣은 것을 알 수 있습니다.]

Gang Gyeong-nam, National Museum of Korea Curator: “You can see that each hair and the collar of the hanbok were carefully drawn, and painted in beautiful colors. Great attention was paid to the fine writing too.”

Image source, cropped: Joo Jaebum @Behance; (CC BY-NC 4.0)

그림 속 여인은 기생이라고 추정할 뿐 아직 밝혀진 건 없습니다.

The woman in the picture is presumed to be a gisaeng, but no information has ever emerged about her.

간송문화재단에서 보관하던 ‘미인도’는 지난 8월 국립중앙박물관에 3주 일정으로 특별 전시됐지만, 코로나19 탓에 나흘 만에 볼 수 없었습니다.

“Portrait of a Beauty,” which was kept by the Kansong Art and Culture Foundation, was to be specially exhibited at the National Museum of Korea last August for three weeks, but the exhibition had to close after just four days due to the Corona-19 pandemic.

지난주부터 박물관이 다시 문을 열면서 ‘미인도’는 11일까지 1주일 동안 다시 전시됩니다.

With the museum reopening last week, “Portrait of a Beauty” will be exhibited again for a week until Sunday the 11th.

박물관 측은 국보와 보물 83건을 볼 수 있는 큰 전시인 만큼 특별전 기간을 오는 11일까지로 연장해놓았습니다.

The museum has extended the exhibition due to its large size, with 83 national treasures on display.

긴장감이 감도는 투전판, 옷섶을 풀어헤친 채 장기 두는 승려를 그린 김득신의 풍속화와, 지금의 청운동인 인왕산 기슭 청풍계를 담은 정선의 작품도 만날 수 있습니다.

These national treasures include Kim Deuk-sin‘s paintings of four tense men gambling and of two men and one monk playing Chinese chess. There are also a number of Jeong Seon‘s landscapes, including “Cheongpunggye” which depicts the present-day Cheongun-dong neighbourhood of Jongno-gu in Seoul at the base of Inwangsan Mountain.

다만 국보인 ‘삼국사기’는 사전협약에 따라 반환돼 연장 전시 기간에는 공개되지 않습니다.

However, the History of the Three Kingdoms, a national treasure, has already been returned to the Kansong Art and Culture Foundation according to a prior agreement and will not be on display.

관람은 1회 30분 간격, 회당 40명으로 인원수가 축소되며 온라인 사전예매 방식으로만 운영됩니다.

The number of visitors is reduced to 40 people per 30-minute interval, and is operated only by online pre-order.

YTN 김혜은[henism@ytn.co.kr]입니다.

This is Kim Hye-eun of YTN [henism@ytn.co.kr].

If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)