Why Are Smiles So Rare in Art History?

Art|Art History

Smiles are a universal expression that communicates joy, happiness, and pleasure. They can lighten up a room, bring people closer together, and make strangers feel more at ease. It’s no wonder that many people find it strange that smiles are so rare in art history.

The fact is that smiles have been around for centuries, but they weren’t always as common as they are today. In the Middle Ages, for example, smiling was considered inappropriate in many cases because it was seen as an expression of vanity or pride. This meant that artists often chose to portray their subjects without the hint of a smile on their face.

More recently, during the Renaissance period, a different set of conventions were adopted when it came to depicting human emotions in art. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael often used subtle expressions and gestures to convey emotion instead of relying on facial expressions alone. This meant that although smiles were present in some works of art from this period, they weren’t as common as they are today.

In addition to the historical conventions surrounding facial expressions in art, there is also the fact that some artists simply prefer not to include smiles in their work. Some view the act of smiling as too mundane or trite for their artworks; others may feel that smiles don’t always accurately convey the emotion they are trying to portray; and still others may find them too distracting or cheesy-looking for their compositions.


Overall, there are many reasons why smiles are not always common in art history – from historical conventions to personal preference – but whatever the reason may be it is clear that smiling has not always been a popular expression within works of art throughout time.