人文藝術 4 分鐘閱讀
It seems that painters’ studios were not happy places. After all, so few classic portraits show people smiling. Clearly, being the subject of a painting is boring, painful, tiring, or some combination of these unpleasant factors. Or could it be something else? Art historians have a lot of theories.
Sappho of Lesbos, depicted in a 1904 painting by John William Godward （英國畫家約翰·威廉·格威德筆下的女性油畫作品—詩人莎芙）
One theory is that at the time many old paintings were created, people had bad teeth. It was only natural that people didn’t want to show them in a smile. While this was probably true, since everyone had equally bad teeth, it should not have been something to hide. If there was any reason to hide one’s teeth, it’s because showing them in a smile was seen as unrefined and even impolite.
Portrait of the Family of Adriaan Bonebakker with Dirk L. Bennewitz, Adriaan de Lelie（荷蘭畫家阿德里恩·代·萊）
It was a sign of a weak character, not of bad dental hygiene. As a person would probably have only one picture of themselves in their entire lifetime, no one wanted to be remembered as silly or foolish. Not smiling therefore became the broad trend in portraits.
Another possible explanation for the lack of smiles is that smirks or serious expressions were often preferred. It was a sign of a weak character, not of bad dental hygiene. A smile is an obvious indication of happiness, but that’s about it. Less intense expressions like a smirk allow the observer to interpret different emotions. Mona Lisa is a perfect example.
Critics and artists have debated the meaning of her half-smile for centuries, and the conversation continues today. The simplest answer may be the best one, though. It is very possible that the subjects of these portraits really were too tired to keep smiling. Unlike a photo, a painting takes many hours to complete. It’s exhausting to the point of being painful to maintain a smile for that long. So the answer could just be that a serious face was more comfortable than a happy one.
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