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The stories of classical mythology and the Bible are principally serious tales, intended to improve and uplift. But it is literature, poems and, above all, everyday life that provide endless pleasurable, humorous and playful subjects.

In earlier centuries much art sought to create an ideal, of a lost paradise or a perfect landscape. But from the seventeenth century, perfect happiness began to be found in modern life, particularly the well-ordered home. In the eighteenth century, beauty and pleasure were discovered in natural landscapes and in the growing informality of social life. One joyful thread that runs through thousands of years of art is dancing, but happiness can be found in very many aspects of life that change over time too.