This image of the Three Graces is from a 1500s-era bridal chest, and is a detail from a painting found here:

three graces, no smiles

Supposedly the nudes represent beauty, mirth, and creativity; if so, all I can figure is that Mirth is the one with her back to us. That, or the painter in question couldn’t paint an ounce of affect or expression with a gallon of paint, because nobody in the painting has anything resembling an upbeat facial expression. I find this odd in a painting that’s supposed to be in celebration of marriage, as per the caption:

Anonymous painter called Pseudo Granacci, Triumph of Venus, c. 1500, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Venus, the goddess of love, here champions good marital conduct. She has captured naughty Cupid and restrains him with her belt. Venus also prepares the way for the Three Graces–representing beauty, mirth, and creativity–shown nude at right. The frequent depiction of restraint, mature guidance, and good feminine behavior was a response to the age disparity common in Renaissance marriages. Thirty-year-old grooms entered into quasi-parental relationships with teen brides whose capacity for virtue was considered dubious.

I’ll betcha those teen brides could smile better than that, though.

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