Ever wonder why people in old paintings and old photos generally don’t have smiles on their faces?
We explored this subject and found that reasons may have included technical limitations, oral hygiene, and the seriousness of formal occasions.
So the short answer is, there are several reasons really….
No remotes for the TV, fast food restaurants didn’t have horse and buggy drive-up and the Sears Roebuck catalog hadn’t been invented yet for outhouse toilet paper for severe cases of dysentery.
First off, we dismiss the notion that people of old refused to smile because their teeth were rotting.
It wasn’t that people didn’t have bad teeth, as dental hygiene really was awful, but rather that bad teeth were so common that seeing them did not take away from a person’s attractiveness at the time.
So what were some of the real reasons people didn’t smile? Jeeves writes that in addition to the simple fact that nice-looking smiles are difficult to create and capture, one of the main reasons was how smiles were perceived centuries ago.
Although nowadays we think of smiles as being indicative of happiness, humor, and warmth, they apparently had a very different meaning back in the day:
2.) It took a full minute or longer to expose the film. Holding a smile for 60 seconds isn’t easy!
3.) It was in style. Before photography, people had their portraits painted… and they liked to look serious, stately, and noble in their portraits.
Want to be seen as upper class and as a person of good character? Don’t smile.
For this reason, both the creators and the sitters of portraits had good reason to keep the smiles out of the resulting images, which explains why we don’t see photos of famous figures donning a grin in their official portraits.
Mark Twain once wrote to the Sacramento Daily Union that, “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”
Why don’t you think people smiled in old photos?