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Arts & Culture

The History Of The Smile

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun's smiling self-portrait.
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
/
Wikimedia Commons

A white-toothed smile is a gesture that many likely engage in dozens of times a day without thought. Historian Colin Jones traced the history of the smile and found a toothy smile is a relatively young phenomenon. 

In his recent book, "The Smile Revolution In Eighteenth Century Paris," he argues that the white-tooth smile emerged in 18th century Paris in conjunction with the cult of sensibility and the creation of modern dentistry.

An open mouth used to mean the person was [...] insane or their reason was totally out of control- Colin Jones

Host Frank Stasio talks with Jones, fellow at the National Humanities Center and professor of history at Queen Mary University of London, about the making of the modern smile. Jones will also present a lecture about the topic at the National Humanities Center this evening at 5 p.m.

Here he is taking you behind the scenes of his discovery:

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