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Archaic Smile in Ancient Greek Sculpture: Definition & Concept

Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

In this lesson we will learn about the Archaic smile. We will take a closer look at the period in which the Archaic smile is seen in sculptures and the rationales behind what the Archaic smile is thought to have meant.

Background

The Archaic smile is what we interpret in modern day to be a smile. It is represented in Archaic sculptures as the lips being upturned. It is typically seen in Archaic sculptures before the 5th century BC.

History

The Archaic period in Greece followed the dark ages. This period saw a dramatic rise in the arts, literature and culture. The word 'archaic' means things belonging to ancient times or primitive. The archaic period in Greek art is considered to be full of life and amazing works.

The Archaic smile appeared on sculptures in the second quarter of the 6th century BC. This smile was used by Greek Archaic artists. It is noted as a small smile or smirk on the face of the sculpture.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www3.delta.edu/sewiley/anavysos2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.delta.edu/sewiley/artarchaic.html&h=412&w=468&sz=13&tbnid=IH69cPHfgwju2M:&tbnh=90&tbnw=102&zoom=1&usg=__dlCFmEECXp2H8gigvraTDD-EBB8=&docid=FHi0iqQ3hNaBEM&sa=X&ei=eFl6Uo6yEoizrQGqlYDIDg&ved=0CD4Q9QEwBQ

It is supposed that this smile was created to suggest that the subject of the sculptor was alive and in good health.

The Archaic Period of Ancient Greece contained many sculptures of people who had the archaic smile. Many sculptures have been recovered across Greece and nearby vicinities. The smile is viewed as flat and not natural and many believe that the smile is meant to interpret ignorant happiness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:0008MAN-KourosHead2.jpg

Truly, the significance of the smile is not definitively known. But, it is of note from this specific period and anthropologists believe that artists are purposeful in their actions and therefore the smile has a specific meaning - perhaps that the figure was blessed by the gods for their life works.

It has also been supposed that during the two centuries of 600 BC to 480 BC that perhaps it was mechanically difficult to fit a semi-circle of a mouth onto the typical shape of the Archaic structure and that therefore it just appears to the viewer as a smile.

Lastly, some modern anthropologists believe that it may simply be a pre-planned smile just like we do today in modern photographs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Istanbul_-_Museo_archeologico_-_Mostra_sul_colore_nell%27antichit%C3%A0_02_-_Foto_G._Dall%27Orto_28-5-2006.jpg

Lesson Summary

The Archaic period in Greece followed the dark ages. The word 'archaic' means things belonging to ancient times or primitive. The archaic period in Greek art is considered to be full of life and amazing works.

The Archaic smile is what we interpret in modern day to be a smile. It is represented in Archaic sculptures as the lips being upturned. It is typically seen in Archaic sculptures before the 5th century BC. The Archaic smile appeared on sculptures in the second quarter of the 6th century BC. This smile was used by Greek Archaic artists. It is noted as a small smile or smirk on the face of the sculpture.

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