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When saying cheese was a big turn-off ...; PROFESSOR CHARTS THE ORIGIN OF THE TONY BLAIR-TYPE SMILE.

TONY BLAIR'S cheesy grin would have been considered "rude or demented" in the 18th century, according to a Warwick University historian.

His open-mouthed, white-toothed smile would have seen him hailed the village idiot, rather than the country's foremost statesman.

And Professor Colin Jones, from the university's history department, says in a research paper published in historical journal Past and Present that he has pinpointed the moment the modern smile was born.

He says the modern open-mouthed smile is considered to be a distinctive marker of people's personality, and promotes health and beauty.

Yet just over 200 years ago, this would have been considered the height of ill manners. Polite society favoured the enigmatic, tight-lipped smile of the Mona Lisa.

Prof Jones says he has now uncovered the first acceptable use of the open-mouthed smile, in a self-portrait by French artist Madame Vigee-LeBrun.

Painted in 1787, the artist depicts herself smiling with her daughter. She drew widespread condemnation from contemporary critics, with one saying: "An affectation which artists, art lovers and persons of taste have been united in condemning is that, in smiling, Madame Vigee-LeBrun shows her teeth. This affection is particularly out of place in a mother."

But her bold gesture was copied by other significant French figures in portraits, due in part to a radical improvement in dental practice and a consumer boom in mouth and dental care products.

Prof Jones said: "The 18th century saw France lead the way in the development of products for mouth care, including the invention of aesthetically pleasing porcelain teeth - replacing more horrific forms of false teeth such as human teeth grafted onto hippopotamus jaws - and the invention of spring-loaded dentures.

"All of this new dental technology fed a consumer boom which helped to make the open smile a lot more pleasing to the eye."
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Author:Cuthbertson, Hayley
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 19, 2000
Words:302
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