From Publishers Weekly
All smiles may be triggered by an "instantaneous chemical reaction in the brain," but that's where their similarities end, says art historian and curator Trumble in this eclectic and engaging look at the phenomenon throughout art and history and across cultures. He breezily traces the representation of the smile, from its mild, mask-like expression in early Greek sculpture to its ever-debated, enigmatic presence on da Vinci's Mona Lisa, to its gaping glory days in 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting. Unabashed tooth display in formal portraiture was frowned upon right up to the 20th century, when sufficient progress had been made in the fields of photography and dentistry to usher in the wide-mouthed grin. Trumble travels east to explain the Indonesian smile, often misread by Westerners as unconditionally welcoming, and to present the evolutions of the Muslim concept of purdah, "the most obvious form of modesty or physical concealment," as well as the Japanese custom of tooth-blackening, which coyly flirted with Oriental notions of "exposing and concealing." Readers learn that Buddha's transcendent beam represents intelligence, compassion and ethereality, while the fleeting appearance of the "Gothic smile" in 12th-century Christian iconography is considered a departure from more characteristic Jesus imagery. Trumble also tackles a bit of science, detailing the smile's physiological mechanisms; child development, explaining the involuntary radiance of infants; and trends, examining our celebrity-crazed, Angelina-lipped pop culture. Since Trumble sets out to tackle "the smile in the broadest possible sense," his resulting chronicle, while packed with factoids and whimsy (who knew George Washington wore a makeshift bridge of carved hippopotamus teeth?) feels fun but diffuse.
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"'Satisfyingly rich, consistently surprising and gloriously irreverent'. The Daily Telegraph 'A beautifully written book'. New Scientist 'Thanks to Trumble's curiosity, breadth of knowledge and naughty sense of humour, the overall effect is delightful'. Psychology Today"
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