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The Archaic Smile: It’s No Laughing Matter

April 1, 2021 Pacific Time

TBA (Portland)
Portland, OR United States

AIA Society: Portland

Lecturer: Jeffrey Hurwit

Undoubtedly the most familiar and recognizable feature on the faces of figures carved in the round or in relief during the Greek Archaic period (c. 750-480 BCE) is a shallow, inscrutable smile that, like the Mona Lisa’s, has defied explanation. The lecture surveys the origin and history of the “Archaic Smile” as well as the history of its interpretation. It is often thought a stylistic “import” from the sculpture of Egypt or the Near East, and it has been variously considered a sign of life, or happiness, or status, or divinity, or even an “optical refinement.” But although certain theories can be eliminated from the discussion and others added, there may in fact be no single, universal explanation for the Smile at all.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

J. Boardman, Greek Sculpture: The Archaic Period, 1975

Chaniotis, A., Kaltsas, N., and Mylonopoulos, I., eds.. A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC-200 AD. 2017.

Norton Lecture


April 1, 2021
Event Category:


Thomas Landvatter


TBA (Portland)
Portland, OR United States

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