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Sculpture is often regarded as a rather serious, even earnest art form. This may be influenced by the hardness and permanence of most materials used in sculpture. And much like early photography, where sitters typically were depicted as rather serious and formal, perhaps the softness that a smile can give is often not part of the brief to the sculptor. So I’d imagined that it would be difficult to find many examples of figurative sculpture and portrait busts showing people smiling, or even having a chuckle. Happily, I was wrong.


Here are examples of broad, happy smiles; from the earliest cheeky faces of gargoyles, to important figures from the past beaming from ear to ear, right through to creative contemporary sculpture.

65 artworks
  • Head Stop

    Head Stop 14th C
    unknown artist
    Stone
    H 13 x W 12 x D 11 cm
    Historic Environment Scotland
    Head Stop
    Photo credit: Historic Environment Scotland

  • Betty Boothroyd (b.1929), Baroness Boothroyd OM, PC, Hon., FSLL

    Betty Boothroyd (b.1929), Baroness Boothroyd OM, PC, Hon., FSLL 2002
    Shenda Amery (b.1937)
    Bronze
    H 63 x W 45 x D 20 cm
    Sandwell Museums Service Collection
    Betty Boothroyd (b.1929), Baroness Boothroyd OM, PC, Hon., FSLL
    © the artist. Photo credit: Sandwell Museums Service Collection

  • James Hunt (1947–1993)

    James Hunt (1947–1993)
    Richard Sefton (1935 or 1936–2008)
    Metal
    H 14 x W 8.5 x D 8.5 cm
    National Motor Museum Trust
    James Hunt (1947–1993)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Motor Museum Trust

  • Head of a Gargoyle*

    Head of a Gargoyle*
    unknown artist
    Stone
    H 9.5 x W 9 x D 9.5 cm
    National Museums Scotland
    Head of a Gargoyle*
    Photo credit: National Museums Scotland

  • Alfred Thomas Eggington (b.1888)

    Alfred Thomas Eggington (b.1888)
    Nirava Kavya
    Bronze & wood
    H 55 x W 42 x D 28 cm
    Leicestershire County Council Museums Service
    Alfred Thomas Eggington (b.1888)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Leicestershire County Council Museums Service

  • Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (1908–1987), CBE

    Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (1908–1987), CBE 1981
    David Tinker (1924–2000)
    Plaster
    H 18 x W 15 x D 15 cm
    Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales
    Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (1908–1987), CBE
    © Tracy Tinker. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

  • Rt Hon. Clare Short (b.1946), MP

    Rt Hon. Clare Short (b.1946), MP
    Shenda Amery (b.1937)
    Bronze
    Keele University Art Collection
    Rt Hon. Clare Short (b.1946), MP
    © the artist. Photo credit: Keele University Art Collection

  • Primrose 1874
    Robert Glassby (1835–1892)
    Terracotta
    H 36 x W 26 x D 22 cm
    Rotherham Heritage Services
    Primrose
    Photo credit: Rotherham Heritage Services

  • Head of a Small Boy 1946
    Bruno Simon (1920–1999)
    Bronze
    H 22.5 x W 4.4 x D 5.5 cm
    Nottingham City Museums & Galleries
    Head of a Small Boy
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

  • Lacquerware Holy Man

    Hotei
    unknown artist
    Wood & lacquer
    H 49 x W 22 x D 19 cm
    Sandwell Museums Service Collection
    Hotei
    Photo credit: Sandwell Museums Service Collection

  • Bust of a Woman 1952
    Giacomo Manzù (Manzoni) (1908–1991)
    Bronze
    H 60 x W 45 x D 32 cm
    Estorick Collection, London
    Bust of a Woman
    © DACS 2021. Photo credit: Estorick Collection, London

  • Elsie Widdowson (1906–2000) 1974
    Margo Bulman (1913–2003)
    Bronze
    H 31.5 x W 16.5 x D 20 cm
    The Royal Society
    Elsie Widdowson (1906–2000)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: The Royal Society

  • Dr Robert Woof (1931–2005) 2006
    Andrew Sinclair (b.1961)
    Bronze
    H 35 x W 26.5 x D 27 cm
    The Wordsworth Trust
    Dr Robert Woof (1931–2005)
    © the artist. Photo credit: The Wordsworth Trust

  • Lionel Tertis (1876–1975), Holding his Viola

    Lionel Tertis (1876–1975), Holding his Viola 2006
    Benjamin Dearnley (b.1964)
    Bronze
    H 63 x W 53.5 x D 40 cm
    Royal Academy of Music
    Lionel Tertis (1876–1975), Holding his Viola
    © the artist. Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

  • Sir Naim Dangoor (1914–2015)

    Sir Naim Dangoor (1914–2015) 2017
    Nadey Hakim (b.1958)
    Bronze
    H 47 x W 43 x D 35 cm
    Royal Society of Medicine
    Sir Naim Dangoor (1914–2015)
    © the artist. Photo credit: Royal Society of Medicine

  • Niki Lauda (1949–2019)

    Niki Lauda (1949–2019)
    Richard Sefton (1935 or 1936–2008)
    Metal
    H 14 x W 8.5 x D 9 cm
    National Motor Museum Trust
    Niki Lauda (1949–2019)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Motor Museum Trust

  • Laughing Boy

    Laughing Boy mid-18th C
    Joseph Nollekens (1737–1823) (possibly)
    Terracotta
    H 34.3 cm
    National Museums Scotland
    Laughing Boy
    Photo credit: National Museums Scotland

  • John Keble (1792–1866)

    John Keble (1792–1866)
    George Richmond (1809–1896)
    Plaster
    H 57.5 x W 28.5 x D 27 cm
    Keble College, University of Oxford
    John Keble (1792–1866)
    Photo credit: Keble College, University of Oxford

  • Mirth

    Mirth
    Joshua Wall (1835–1869) (possibly)
    Plaster & granite
    The Stroud District (Cowle) Museum Trust Collection
    Mirth
    Photo credit: The Stroud District (Cowle) Museum Trust Collection

  • 'Now ... call forth your actors'

    'Now ... call forth your actors' 1973
    Nancy Edwards (b.1926)
    Fibreglass
    H 134 x W 100 x D 90 cm
    Chelmsford Museums
    'Now ... call forth your actors'
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Chelmsford Museums

  • Johnny the Jig

    Johnny the Jig 1952
    Sophia Rosamond Praeger (1867–1954)
    Plaster
    H 105 x W 44 x D 40 cm
    Ards and North Down Borough Council
    Johnny the Jig
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Ards and North Down Borough Council

  • Bust of an Unknown Mayor
    George Alfred Holman (1911–1980)
    Plaster
    H 50.7 x W 46.5 x D 24 cm
    Southend Museums Service
    Bust of an Unknown Mayor
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Southend Museums Service

  • Max Miller (1894–1963)

    Max Miller (1894–1963) 2003–2005
    Peter Webster (b.1958)
    Bronze & limestone facing over concrete
    H 276 x W 60 x D 60 cm
    Max Miller (1894–1963)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Lawrence Suss / Art UK

  • John Bird as a Boy

    John Bird as a Boy c.1925–1935
    Cecil Thomas (1885–1976)
    Bronze
    H 34 x W 19 x D 21 cm
    Roebuck Collection
    John Bird as a Boy
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Roebuck Collection

  • Mischief (L'espiegle)

    Mischief (L'espiegle)
    Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827–1875)
    Bronze
    H 51.5 x W 24 x D 26 cm
    Manchester Art Gallery
    Mischief (L'espiegle)
    Photo credit: Manchester Art Gallery

  • Ray Gravell (1951–2007)

    Ray Gravell (1951–2007) 2010
    John Meirion Morris (1936–2020)
    Bronze
    H 31 x W 21 x D 18 cm
    Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales
    Ray Gravell (1951–2007)
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

  • Canon Thomas Gisborne (1758–1846)

    Canon Thomas Gisborne (1758–1846) 1840
    Charles Raymond Smith (c.1799–1888)
    Marble
    H 70.5 x W 49.5 x D 27 cm
    Durham University
    Canon Thomas Gisborne (1758–1846)
    Photo credit: Durham University

  • Linda

    Linda 1951
    Barbara Tribe (1913–2000)
    Terracotta & wood
    H 23 x W 16.5 x D 13 cm
    Penlee House Gallery & Museum
    Linda
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Penlee House Gallery & Museum

  • Alexander I (1777–1825)
    Enoch Wood (1759–1840)
    Biscuitware
    H 51 x W 70 x D 26 cm
    The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
    Alexander I (1777–1825)
    Photo credit: The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

  • Charlotte Gray c.1908
    Edwin Whitney-Smith (1880–1952) (after)
    Plaster
    H 42 x W 13.5 x D 14 cm
    The Munnings Art Museum
    Charlotte Gray
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: The Munnings Art Museum

  • Rakan, Han-taku-ka Figure 1868–1912
    unknown artist
    Porcelain, paint & gilding
    H 22.9 cm
    Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Rakan, Han-taku-ka Figure
    Photo credit: Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Seated Children 1934
    Sophia Rosamond Praeger (1867–1954)
    National Trust, Gunby Hall
    Seated Children
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Trust Images

  • Ian Ricketts 2012
    Christine Charlesworth (b.1949)
    Bronze
    H 47 x W 42 x D 25 cm
    University of Surrey
    Ian Ricketts
    © the artist. Photo credit: University of Surrey

  • Lord Lindsay of Birker (1879–1952)

    Lord Lindsay of Birker (1879–1952)
    Jacob Epstein (1880–1959)
    Plaster
    H 41 x W 25 x D 25 cm
    Keele University Art Collection
    Lord Lindsay of Birker (1879–1952)
    © the artist's estate / Tate Images. Photo credit: Keele University Art Collection

  • Professor C. G. Chesters (1904–1993), Professor of Botany and Head of Department of Botany (1944–1969)

    Professor C. G. Chesters (1904–1993), Professor of Botany and Head of Department of Botany (1944–1969) 1993
    Gordon C. Brown
    Bronze & marble
    H 43 x W 38 x D 19.5 cm
    The University of Nottingham
    Professor C. G. Chesters (1904–1993), Professor of Botany and Head of Department of Botany (1944–1969)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: The University of Nottingham

  • Moyang Pipit (the Sparrow Spirit)

    Moyang Pipit (the Sparrow Spirit) 1989
    Semi bin Awas (active 1987–1989)
    Wood
    H 30.5 x W 13.5 x D 19.5 cm
    Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Moyang Pipit (the Sparrow Spirit)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Nubian Man

    Nubian Man
    Ambros Bei
    Plaster
    H 65 x W 54 x D 30 cm
    Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
    Nubian Man
    Photo credit: Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

  • Durga c.1900
    unknown artist
    Alabaster
    H 35 x W 22 x D 10 cm
    Torquay Museum
    Durga
    Photo credit: Torquay Museum

  • Marianne (1800–1862), Lady Clifford Constable

    Marianne (1800–1862), Lady Clifford Constable 1830s
    Lorenzo Bartolini (1777–1850) (attributed to)
    Marble
    H 79 x W 49 x D 29 cm
    Burton Constable Hall
    Marianne (1800–1862), Lady Clifford Constable
    Photo credit: Burton Constable Hall

  • David Lloyd George (1863–1945) as a Corbel 1920
    William Alex Culliford
    Wood
    H 38 x W 19.9 x D 18.2 cm
    Amgueddfa Lloyd George Museum
    David Lloyd George (1863–1945) as a Corbel
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Amgueddfa Lloyd George Museum

  • The April Fool

    The April Fool 1978
    Anthony Earnshaw (1924–2001)
    Plastic & wood
    H 50.5 x W 34 x D 14.3 cm
    Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre
    The April Fool
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

  • Second Portrait of George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)

    Second Portrait of George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) 1934
    Jacob Epstein (1880–1959)
    Cast bronze
    H 40.5 x W 22.5 x D 28 cm
    Bolton Library & Museum Services, Bolton Council
    Second Portrait of George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)
    © the artist's estate / Tate Images. Photo credit: Bolton Library & Museum Services, Bolton Council

  • Lydia Lopokova (1892–1981)

    Lydia Lopokova (1892–1981) 1960
    Jacob Epstein (1880–1959)
    Bronze
    H 41 x W 24 x D 27 cm
    University of Aberdeen
    Lydia Lopokova (1892–1981)
    © the artist's estate / Tate Images. Photo credit: University of Aberdeen

  • The Doctor Laughs

    The Doctor Laughs 1880–1900
    Percy Fitzgerald (1834–1925) (attributed to)
    Plaster
    H 28 x W 17.5 x D 12.5 cm
    Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum
    The Doctor Laughs
    Photo credit: Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum

  • Donald Campbell (1921–1967), World Land and Water Speed Record Holder

    Donald Campbell (1921–1967), World Land and Water Speed Record Holder 1964
    Christian Forward (active 1964)
    Clay
    H 30 x W 17 x D 13 cm
    The Ruskin Museum
    Donald Campbell (1921–1967), World Land and Water Speed Record Holder
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: The Ruskin Museum

  • Bust of Boy
    John Griffiths
    Wood
    H 26.5 x W 29.5 cm
    Wigan Arts and Heritage Service
    Bust of Boy
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Wigan Arts and Heritage Service

  • Tragi-Comic 2002
    Patricio Grose Forrester (b.1967)
    Oil on raquet cover
    H 80.5 x W 26.5 x D 3 cm
    Essex Collection of Art from Latin America
    Tragi-Comic
    © Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. Photo credit: Essex Collection of Art from Latin America

  • Mr Nadhmi Auchi (b.1937), Philanthropist

    Mr Nadhmi Auchi (b.1937), Philanthropist 2005
    Nadey Hakim (b.1958)
    Bronze
    H 57 x W 46 x D 26 cm
    Royal Society of Medicine
    Mr Nadhmi Auchi (b.1937), Philanthropist
    © the artist. Photo credit: Royal Society of Medicine

  • Lewis Falk (d.1954), President of the Letchworth Arts Society, Owner of the Garden City Embroidery Works, Chairman of 'The Settlement'

    Lewis Falk (d.1954), President of the Letchworth Arts Society, Owner of the Garden City Embroidery Works, Chairman of 'The Settlement'
    Mark Harvey (b.1913)
    Bronze
    H 50 x W 49 x D 27 cm
    Garden City Collection
    Lewis Falk (d.1954), President of the Letchworth Arts Society, Owner of the Garden City Embroidery Works, Chairman of 'The Settlement'
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Garden City Collection

  • Head of a Girl
    Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones (1908–1968) and Gwynneth Holt (1909–1995)
    Plaster
    H 16 x W 10 x D 16 cm
    Chelmsford Museums
    Head of a Girl
    © the copyright holders. Photo credit: Chelmsford Museums

  • Voltaire (1694–1778) 18th C
    Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828)
    Marble
    H 48 x W 21 x D 17 cm
    Taylor Institution, University of Oxford
    Voltaire (1694–1778)
    Photo credit: Taylor Institution, University of Oxford

  • Chin Fan

    Chin Fan
    Jean Illich (active 1924 or before)
    Bronze
    H 43 x W 23 x D 11 cm
    Williamson Art Gallery & Museum
    Chin Fan
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Williamson Art Gallery & Museum

  • Italian Shepherd Boy

    Italian Shepherd Boy 19th C
    Italian School
    Alabaster
    H 83 x W 29 x D 49 cm
    Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
    Italian Shepherd Boy
    Photo credit: Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

  • Robot Family

    Robot Family c.1975
    Simon Axford Jones (active c.1975)
    Concrete
    Robot Family
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Simon Maddison / Art UK

  • Man and Woman
    A. Kaven
    Wood
    H 19.2 x W 10.6 x D 5.5 cm
    Emery Walker's House
    Man and Woman
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Emery Walker's House

  • 'Oor Wullie': Verdant Works Statue

    'Oor Wullie': Verdant Works Statue 2016
    Pam Kelly (b.1964)
    Resin & paint
    H 16.8 x W 21.5 x D 12.3 cm
    Dundee Heritage Trust
    'Oor Wullie': Verdant Works Statue
    © the artist. Photo credit: Dundee Heritage Trust

  • Sir (Howard) Kingsley Wood (1881–1943)

    Sir (Howard) Kingsley Wood (1881–1943) 1982
    Peter Lambda (1911–1995)
    Bronze
    H 25.4 cm
    National Portrait Gallery, London
    Sir (Howard) Kingsley Wood (1881–1943)
    © National Portrait Gallery, London. Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

  • Head of a Smiling Girl

    Head of a Smiling Girl
    William Reynolds-Stephens (1862–1943)
    Plaster
    H 21.5 x W 11 x D 12.5 cm
    Nottingham City Museums & Galleries
    Head of a Smiling Girl
    Photo credit: Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

  • Diddlin’ Davie

    Diddlin’ Davie
    Ernest J. Lang
    Plaster
    H 40 x W 34 x D 30 cm
    Glenesk Folk Museum
    Diddlin’ Davie
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Glenesk Folk Museum

  • Sculpted Pole

    Sculpted Pole
    Tom Leach and John Marder
    Wood
    H 560 x W 45 x D 45 cm
    Sculpted Pole
    © the copyright holders. Photo credit: Cliff Palmer/Art UK

  • Clementine, the Living Fashion Doll

    Clementine, the Living Fashion Doll 2014
    Mark Mander (b.1980)
    Wood, paint, textiles & feathers
    H 51 x W 40 x D 3.5 cm
    Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Culture, Libraries and Learning)
    Clementine, the Living Fashion Doll
    © the artist. Photo credit: Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Culture, Libraries and Learning)

  • Graham Hill (1929–1975)

    Graham Hill (1929–1975)
    unknown artist
    Bronze
    H 30 x W 20 x D 21 cm
    National Motor Museum Trust
    Graham Hill (1929–1975)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Motor Museum Trust

  • Carved Male Head

    Carved Male Head mid-19th C
    unknown artist
    Wood
    H 46 x W 20.7 x D 26 cm
    American Museum & Gardens
    Carved Male Head
    Photo credit: American Museum & Gardens

  • Helen Bradley (1900–1979)

    Helen Bradley (1900–1979)
    unknown artist
    Bronze & wood
    H 20 x W 19 x D 20 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    Helen Bradley (1900–1979)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Gallery Oldham

  • Michael Little

    Michael Little 2009
    Paul Bainbridge (b.1943)
    Bronze & sandstone
    H 44 x W 24 x D 33 cm
    The Beacon Museum
    Michael Little
    © the artist. Photo credit: The Beacon Museum