Though the music of your favorite composers might make you smile, chances are, the composers themselves aren’t smiling in their portraits. Many great composers of the past did not live to see the advent of photography, and the only images we have of them are paintings, sculptures, figurines, engravings, death masks, or other objects that show their likeness.
Of course, artists portraying their subjects can take artistic license to portray them however they want. So we might not ever be sure exactly what some of our favorite composers looked like. But the images we do have rarely show them smiling.
Why the long face? Smiling for hours while you sit for an artist who is portraying you could be taxing. But, if the Mona Lisa smiled, couldn’t composers? They weren’t donning dour expressions because it took a long time to sit for portraits. Even after the invention of early photography, people weren’t quick to flash their smiles on camera.
Christina Kotchemidova has suggested that smiling for portraits is a product of modern marketing in her article “Why We Say ‘Cheese’: Producing the Smile in Snapshot Photography.” Kodak, one of the early photography giants, knew that in order to get consumers to purchase the company’s products, it needed to sell them with a smile. By portraying people in early advertisements for Kodak products with smiles, consumers were more likely to see photography as something fun and accessible.
Science shows that flashing some teeth on film has become more popular over the last century. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California – Berkeley analyzed 37,000 senior yearbook portraits taken between 1905 and 2013, and demonstrated that people smiled more in recent high school portraits than their historical counterparts. The reason? Changes in cultural values.
In the 21st century, technology continues to change along with our standards of beauty. And thanks to FaceApp you can see your favorite composers show a bit of a smile.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Ludwig van Beethoven
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
George Frideric Handel
Cipriano de Rore