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This painting, called “Kiss,” was painted by Francesco Hayez in the 19th century. Before the 19th century, kisses did not appear frequently in Western artwork.
Historians really don’t know much about the early history of kissing. Four Vedic Sanskrit texts, written in India around 1500 B.C., appear to describe people kissing. This doesn’t mean that nobody kissed before then, and it doesn’t mean that Indians were the first to kiss. Artists and writers may have just considered kissing too private to depict in art or literature.
After its first mention in writing, kissing didn’t appear much in art or literature for a few hundred years. The Indian epic poem “Mahabharata” describes kissing on the lips as a sign of affection. The “Mahabharata” was passed down orally for several hundred years before being written down and standardized around 350 A.D. The Indian religious text “Vatsyayana Kamasutram,” or the “Kama Sutra,” also describes a variety of kisses. It was written in the 6th century A.D. Anthropologists who believe that kissing is a learned behavior theorize that the Greeks learned about it when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 B.C.