Research paper
Hyun Jung Kim (Jay)
2014/8/5 Tuesday
Nicola Tulk
Oriental Art VS. Western Art
What is the difference between ‘Portrait of a Beauty’ by
Shin Yun Bok and ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonard Da Vinci?
There are many differences between oriental and western art, which we can see when we compare two famous 16th century works from different countries.
Most artists who are well known have their own way to depict a portrait. Now, I’m
going to write a comparison between two portraits. One portrait is drawn by one of
the most influential Korean artists, Shin-Yun Bok, the lifelike painting of his portrait
of a beautify and the other is the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, the
Famous Italian artist. The Mona Lisa has been described as “the best known, the
most visited, and the most written about”1 painting in the world. The reason I chose
these two pieces is that I want to compare oriental artwork with the western style of
painting, especially when it comes to being depicted in the painting. Through
comparing these two particular works, we can learn about the many differences
existing between the two different paintings, as well as between the two different
cultural approaches. I will explore what themes the artists have expressed in the
paintings, and the literal background of those paintings, and the three different
elements of: color, beauty and lastly, composition.
Sassoon, Donald . "History Workshop Journal." Mona Lisa: the Best Known Girl in the Whole Wide
World. (accessed August 5, 2014).
Portrait of a Beauty by Shin Yun Bok contains limited colors Compared to the
Mona Lisa portrait, Shin Yun Bok’s portrait uses fundamental color choices, such as
Might night blue, red and Flavescent Yellow. The Colors really pop and they contrast
well with one another. Da Vinci’s portrait uses earth tones, flesh tones, blues and
greens in the painting. During Leonardo's time artists had their own formula for
mixing paint. Used to paint the face are mostly warm colors such as, Amber yellows,
Mustard oranges, Indian reds and the tones in between.
Shin Yun Bok’s portrait was created in the middle of the Joseon dynasty
(1637~1895) During the In Joseon Dynastic the mid –Joseon painting styles moved
increasingly towards a Korean style, which in turn derived from the traditional
Chinese style. The Mid-to-late Joseon dynasty is considered the best age of Korean
painting. Korean artists had developed a number of different styles in the absence of
Chinese cultural influence. Chinese art tends to use types of several of reds and
yellows. It also uses many geometric designs. Koreans use less color, because they
with natural resources. The one thing that usually stands out to me is that old
Korean paintings seem to be more minimalist in nature. These paintings use fewer
colors and a greater use of empty space. Chinese paintings can also be this way, but I
notice that it's more predominant in older Korean art. So, at that time when Shin
Yun Bok painted this portrait there were lots of limitations in using materials
because at that time in the Joseon Dynasty artists were not given lots of interest and
support by government. Things such as colors and applications for approaching a
new style were not easily equipped. The color palette that the Koreans had was very
scarce, which meant they had fewer colors to select from.
Leonardo da Vinci applied oil paint to his canvas to create the Mona Lisa.
Leonardo da Vinci used earth tones, flesh tones and some dark color such as Royal
blue, Navy blue and Rifle Dark Olive greens in the painting and by using these colors
he gave his paintings a great artistic look . Originally the background has been
applied with cool colors such Dark Olive green and Sapphire blue. However, over
time the original color of the painting has faded. To depict the center, which is the
Mona Lisa he applied ‘warm colors’ such as Peach, Pastel Orange and Bronze2. Shin
Yun Bok mostly used a flat way to depict the portrait, in contrast Leonardo da Vinci
took a special interest in finding ways to realistically render three-dimensional forms
on a flat canvas.
Shin Yun Bok, in contrast, drew on the top of silk using watercolor. Also,
rather than using a brush, he mostly drew lines to express the feeling of the Korean
traditional style of painting. Korean painting has been shown to create
compositions with metaphoric meaning, intended to be viewed as colorful works
of fine art. While Korean art was originally brought from China, both Chinese and
Korean art are different in many ways. One of those ways are how the usage of
patterns and repetition in Chinese art. Koreans painted in a simple way, but with
that one simple object in the painting comes a lot of significance. Chinese art uses
a lot of vibrant standard colors, like green, yellow, red, and blue. Korean art
Smith, Webster. "Observations on the Mona Lisa landscape." Art Bulletin 67, (June 1985): 183-199. Art Source,
EBSCOhost(accessed July 25, 2014)(pg 194).
usually includes vibrant primary colors, but with different variations, like sky
blue, or mustard yellow, or even olive greens.
The art pieces I have been considering similar themes. In Shin Yun Bok’s
“Portrait of Beauty” is a good example of how he represents in female
representation by using a woman’s face in the cultures in mid-century Korea.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait represents a trend in Italy during his lifetime. We can
see, for example, that Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. Shaving all eyebrows was a trend
at that time when Da Vinci drew the portrait of this lady. Also, a wide forehead was a
typical considered an emblem of beauty in Italy.3 The artists gave different meanings
of beauty through their paintings. Shin Yun Bok mostly focuses on hair and clothes
because in the Old century Korean culture was obligated to dress up very formally
and neatly which is why you can see a woman in the painting with neat hair and a
dress. Clothing was one of the ways to symbolize a time period. Applying clothing in
the paintings was a great way to symbolize what the trend was at the time. It depicts
what was the ideal standard of beauty during that Joseon Dynasty (1610-.1800) The
most noticeable feature of the painting is the realistic detail of the Hanbok that the
woman is wearing. Hanbok is the traditional Korean dress it is often characterized by
vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. The concept of making a woman the
focus of a painting at the time was considered to be revolutionary because woman
as a model in that time was not usual, (women were not treated equally with men) 4.
Leonardo da Vinci cared for skin, face, and gesture. In all his works he usually
3 Smith, Webster. 1985. "Observations on the Mona Lisa landscape." Art Bulletin 67, 183-199. Art Source,
EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2014).
4 Lee, Young-Jae. "Hong-Do Kim and Yun-Bok Shin: Comparative Analysis of Korean Genre Paintings." Arts Of Asia 37, no.
(July 2007): 45-53. Art Source, EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2014).
depicted humans very precisely and frequently they are naked. Both women in the
portraits were not based on a live model or if the painting was based off of a live
model, it is still unknown to the world.5 The lady in the ‘Shin Yun Bok’ painting was
based on a famous Korean prostitute and Mona Lisa was based off of beautiful traits
that most women in Italy had. Despite the fact they were not depicting real faces of
women, both artists well understood the trends of the time when they drew those
Both works have a distinctive composition of balance. The Mona Lisa is
mostly a balanced composition. Mona Lisa today and see it’s composition as
standard and simple – for it’s time the composition of the Mona Lisa was innovation
and ground breaking, also it has set new trends in painting which have been
followed for centuries afterward. One of the compositional method that the portrait
is known for is Leonardo’s using a pyramidal composition, which shows with her
arms and hands forming a front corner and everything is in the place to draw the eye
from her body to her eyes and her smile.6 I realized that there is many scientifically
balance that was applied to this work and everything is mathematical designed and
measured. Shin Yun Bok is known to used the traditional method of leaving empty
space in his paintings, usually the whole canvas. Although he placed short verse and
his seal on most of his works, indicate the date and time of their creation, is really
difficult to find out also describe the process of making his painting. As one of the
pillars of genre painting in the Joseon era, he influenced many other painters
Smith, Webster. 1985. "Observations on the Mona Lisa landscape." Art Bulletin 67, 183-199. Art Source,
EBSCOhost (accessed July 25, 2014). (p.g 182)
"What the Mona Lisa Can Teach You About Taking Great Portraits - Digital Photography School." Digital Photography School
RSS.. Web. 25 July 2014.
Even though (artist) and (artist) have similar subjects in the two famous works
discussed above, there are differences in balance, color and the reasons why they
used and expressed their materials the way they did. During the Joseon dynasty, the
Koreans were not as advanced as the Westerners in terms of colors. Koreans had a
limited color palette, and had to start to discover how to mix new colors, while
Westerners had already invented them. These two cultures come from two different
worlds, with that said the concept of their art is entirely different. Westerners would
focus more on the beauty of the features, and the body language of the portrait.
While Asians would paint for more of a metaphorical purpose. Both Asian and
Western cultures were similar when it came to the material they would use to paint
their portraits. They would use cow, and horsetail hair to create their paintbrushes.
While the Asians were quite abundant with the selection of their colors, the
Westerners were very knowledable at selecting colors for their paintings.
Chicago citation
Charney, Noah. 2011. "Lessons from the History of Art Crime "Mona Lisa Myths: Dispelling the
Valfierno Con." Journal Of Art Crime no. 5: 55-56. Art Source, EBSCOhost (accessed August 5, 2014).
FILIPCZAK, Z. Zaremba. 1977. "New light on Mona Lisa: Leonardo's optical knowledge and his choice
of lightin." Art Bulletin 59, 518-523. Art Source, EBSCOhost (accessed August 5, 2014).
Lee, Young-Jae. 2007. "Hong-Do Kim and Yun-Bok Shin: Comparative Analysis of Korean Genre
Paintings." Arts Of Asia 37, no. 4: 45-53. Art Source, EBSCOhost (accessed August 5, 2014).
"History of Chinese art." Princeton University.
(accessed August 5, 2014).
Sassoon, Donald . "History Workshop Journal." Mona Lisa: the Best Known Girl in the Whole Wide
World. (accessed August 5, 2014).

Integrative Seminar 2 (Oriental Vs Western Art)