A smile can reveal more details of an era than we think. Just scroll through Instagram to observe the different uses we make of it: from those envious and idyllic vacation postcards, full of wide and resplendent teeth; to the pretended seriousness of many influencers and celebrities, who hide behind impenetrable faces to compensate for overexposure. There is no gesture that awakens so many enigmas and, in turn, that better describes who we are, or what we were. That is the artistic approach that Laboratorios Lacer has made to celebrate the anniversary of the brand: The art of smiling, an interesting vision of the history of oral health through the most representative works of art from the Prado Museum. Commented on by a historian and an expert dentist, the pieces that make up Lacer’s historical review – a first axis entitled Smiles of history, in which numerous anecdotes and details of the evolution of dental health over the centuries are detailed ; and a second, Emblematic Works, aimed at rediscovering the most iconic pieces of the Madrid art gallery from this original perspective– they have in common the shy countenance of their protagonists. “It is curious to observe that in most of the paintings their protagonists did not want to smile and, even less, show their teeth because in those times the dentures deteriorated and were not at all something nice to show”, commented in dentist, insisting on the empowering power of a beautiful smile. The smile of the Mona Lisa – the earliest copy of the Gioconda known to date that is housed in the Prado Museum – continues to be one of the greatest mysteries in art. Nor will we know what El Cardenal de Rafael was hiding behind that grimace as disturbing as his look; or if, had he been born in another era, Velázquez would have portrayed the happiest Meninas of his. Why did the artists of the time appeal to seriousness? There are many theories, from functional reasons – keeping a spontaneous smile for hours, even days, is not an easy task – to purely cultural issues. Its meaning has changed a lot. In the 17th century, for example, wide smiles, with well-marked teeth, were associated with the lower social classes, something typical of drunkards or buffoons, like the one portrayed by Velázquez in El buffoon Calabacillas; while the aristocracy was recognized in decorum. The explanation, historian Colin Jones agrees in his essay Smile Revolution, may be due to the lack of hygiene and oral correction for which many felt modesty or shame when showing their teeth. It will not be until the eighteenth century, when in France it acquires the friendly and relaxed meaning that we attribute to it today; and was finally naturalized with the arrival of photography and cinema a century later. Smiles have also evolved and, above all, improved in recent years. We observe it in the work Adam and Eve by Dürer, where Adam’s irregular incisors enhance her childish and innocent character, compared to her suggestive smile; and above all in María Luisa de Parma, wife of Carlos IV, who would have had a different destiny if she had grown up at this time. The queen consort, as portrayed by Francisco de Goya, lost practically all of her teeth as a result of her numerous pregnancies. A physical deterioration that she tried to hide with false teeth that were the talk of the court. Luckily, our image of the dentist no longer has anything to do with the terrifying figure in the painting of The Tooth-Puller, wearing pliers, a hammer and a good entourage, to extract a simple tooth. The foundations of the history of art would be different if products for oral health had existed at the time. In the image, an old advertisement for Lacer. Healthy smiles The care of our smile has evolved over the years along with the Lacer laboratories. Founded in Barcelona at the end of the 1940s, that small company of less than 20 people dedicated itself to researching how to improve our oral health. The beginnings were not easy: raw materials were very scarce, industrial machinery was obsolete and public services were not very reliable either. But it was not an obstacle either: the Toothpaste-Vaccine, designed to kill viruses and protect the gums, was the origin of one of the most complete lines on the market. We could say that Lacer toothpaste is part of our collective imagination. The formula and design have been updated over the years to more effectively tackle our oral problems and discomfort; but the objective remains the same: that we can safely show our teeth and compensate for so many years of contained smiles. Lacer toothpaste is part of our collective imagination. In the image, an ad from the seventies.
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