Archaic smile

Archaic smile

The Archaic smile was used by Greek Archaic sculptors, especially in the second quarter of the sixth century BCE, possibly to suggest that their subject was alive, and infused with a sense of well-being. To viewers habituated to realism, the smile is flat and quite unnatural looking, although it could be seen as a movement towards naturalism, if such a move is sought. One of the most famous examples of the Archaic Smile is the Kroisos Kouros.

The dying warrior from the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia, Aegina, Greece is an interesting context as the warrior is near death.

In the Archaic Period of Ancient Greece (roughly 600 BCE to 480 BCE), the art that proliferated contained images of people who had the archaic smile. It is a smile which, to modern interpreters, suggests a feeling of happiness via ignorance. It has been theorized that in this period, artists felt it either represents that they were blessed by the gods in their actions, thus the smile, or that it is similar to pre-planned smiles in modern photos.

The significance of the convention is not known, although it is often assumed that for the Greeks this kind of smile reflected a state of ideal health and well-being. It has also been suggested that it is simply the result of a technical difficulty in fitting the curved shape of the mouth to the somewhat blocklike head typical of Archaic sculpture.

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