2013 Roy Porter lecture: The Rise and Fall of the French Smile

Tuesday 21 May 2013, 18.30-19.30

In 1787, the painter Élisabeth-Louise Vigée de Lebrun presented a self-portrait at the Paris Salon. She was harshly attacked by critics for one feature of the portrait: in smiling, she showed her white teeth. Quite why the kind of smile so familiar in our day could provoke outrage will be investigated in this talk. In fact, eighteenth-century Paris was unique in Europe in seeing the emergence of such a smile. Partly this was due to the emergence of modern dentistry, partly to from a wave of sensibility and sentimentality that swept the country. By 1789, a smile revolution seemed to be taking place in France.

This speech-to-text transcribed talk will highlight the emergence of this modern smile – but it will also examine the reasons for its sharp decline in the years following 1789. It would really not be until the twentieth century that, as a result of scientific dentistry, snap photography and Hollywood icons that the modern smile was born.

Speaker: Prof. Colin Jones, FBA, Professor of History, Queen Mary University of London

This event is FREE. 

Bookings are limited to two per person. Any additional bookings will be cancelled.

This event will have live speech-to-text transcription for deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing visitors. If you would like to make use of this transcription, you can book in advance by emailing access@wellcomecollection.org.

Find out more about accessibility at Wellcome Collection.

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