The picture of 'A kiss beneath the mistletoe' (c1880) - Deepstash

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Smiling Victorians: why it's a myth that our ancestors didn't smile for pictures

The picture of 'A kiss beneath the mistletoe' (c1880)

The photo shows a couple of elderly people posing at Christmas time. Both of them look happy and at peace.

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Smiling Victorians: why it's a myth that our ancestors didn't smile for pictures

Smiling Victorians: why it's a myth that our ancestors didn't smile for pictures

https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/why-victorians-didnt-smile-pictures-myth-smiling-portraits/

historyextra.com

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Key Ideas

The old Victorian picture style

If you have a look at Victorian pictures dating from the 19th century, you will soon enough realize that back then people did not really smile. The reason for this involves two elements:

  • firstly, the method to take pictures implied keeping the same happy face for hours to come, making it difficult for individuals to actually do it.
  • secondly, as dental hygiene was not well developed, many preferred hiding their teeth and, therefore, posing with serious faces.

The picture called 'A playful smile' (mid-1850s)

This picture is one of the earliest proofs that Victorians could also smile in photos.

The model is a young lady who poses typically for the period, however, letting a smile be seen on her face.

The 'Giggling gent' picture (c1889)

The picture shows a family who is captured a bit earlier than expected, fact that allows us to see everybody's natural laughter. This is what used to be known as 'Gigglemug' or 'habitually smiling face'.

The 'Three happy boys' picture (c. 1889)

The photo was taken after the Kodak had already been launched, which enabled photos of poor people also being taken.

The picture shows three little boys laughing and having the time of their childhood.

The 'Childish humour' picture (c1865)

The photo shows a happy baby sitting on his mother's lap, as comfortable as possible.

The baby is laughing and the mother is smiling- the mother-child bond was actually at the center of the Victorian so-called 'child-idolisation' phenomen.

The picture of the 'Smiling Queen Victoria' (July 1887)

The photo shows Queen Victoria smiling in her carriage during the celebrations held in honour to her golden jubilee in Newport. The Queen was known for her wicked humour and passion for salacious gossip.

The 'Goofing around' picture (c1897)

The photo illustrates two women and a gentleman, who is making a bit of a fool of himself. Actually the Victorian humour was mostly based on physical slapstick to which one would often add wordplay and riddles.

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