Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Greek Art

What is the Archaic smile?

Take a good look at an Archaic kouros or kore sculpture and you may notice a subtle, yet lighthearted smile playing on its lips. The close-lipped Archaic smile gives cold stone sculptures a sense of warmth and life. Over six feet tall, the Berlin Kore (570–560 B.C.E.) has remnants of red paint and depicts a poised, column-like woman. Her robes fall rigidly and the folds in the fabric look almost like the fluting of a Doric column. She also holds a pomegranate, which therefore links her to the mythological deity Persephone, who was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld as his wife. Contrasting the otherwise stoic austerity of the work, the Berlin Kore features a warm Archaic smile, which brings her to life.


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