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The roots of the symbol are widely believed to be from the early 1960s, with the classic smiley version bearing a bright yellow background said to have emerged in the early 1970s.

The same author also noted that Chardin sold his paintings for higher prices than other painters working in traditionally more prestigious genres such as figure painting.

The present pair of canvases, which was in the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, was acquired for the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in 1986.

They were used to carry the dead across the Nile River. The earliest record of a ship under sail is depicted on an Egyptian pot dating back to 3200BC.

Chardin is represented in the Museum’s collection by three outstanding still lifes: the present pair, dating from 1728, and a still life with a pestle and mortar, pitcher and small copper cauldron or cooking pot, dating to some years later.

These two canvases with their simple compositions of a stone ledge on which the cats, foodstuffs and kitchen vessels are arranged, break their horizontal emphasis through fish hanging from hooks above them.

The rich colouring, applied with a thickly charged brush and delicate touches of paint across the surface, creates a realistic, visually convincing representation.

Archaeologists excavating a Hittite city on the border of Turkey and Syria found a broken jug that, upon restoration, revealed a smiley face.

At 3,700-years-old, it could be the oldest smiley face drawing ever found.

Very few preparatory drawings are known, a fact that tallies with his unusual working methods.

According to Mariette in his , Chardin needed to have the model continually within sight from the first brushstrokes to the final touch.

There are two versions with variants of the present pair in the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

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