Certain works of art are so classic that they've become iconic. As such, they are frequently exploited for symbolic or comedic effect.
Many classic paintings and sculptures have found their way into popular media. So frequently are these images exploited that people who may have never seen the original works still recognize the images.
Specific Subtropes Include:
Compare Truth in Television
and Life Imitates Art
, where this inspirational transition is made beyond the fourth wall.
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Anime & Manga
- Manga artist Suehiro Maruo loves integrating elements of famous paintings into his compositions. Examples: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, Hope by George Frederic Watts, The Plague by Arnold Boeckin, and (NSFW)The Guitar Lesson by Balthus.
- The opening and closing credits for Elfen Lied take an immense cue from the works of Gustav Klimt, to the point of inserting the five mains into a Klimt-like painting.
- Sora No Woto's opening credits also contain numerous allusions to Gustav Klimt's work.
- The last panel◊ of Valerian's adventure "On the False Earths" references Luncheon of the Boating Party, a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
- Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, that painting of some folks in a diner late at night, has been used a whole lot.
- Goscinny and Uderzo have recreations of various famous paintings or sculptures scattered throughout the Astérix books.
- In Asterix the Legionary, for one iteration of the running gag of the pirates having their ship sunk by the Gauls, they wind up recreating The Raft of the Medusa by Jericho.
- In Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, on the same page a Roman slave takes poses of Rodin's Thinker, Laocoön and His Sons, and Myron's Discobolus.
- In Asterix and the Soothsayer, you can recognize The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt.
- In Asterix and the Great Crossing, Asterix himself poses like the Statue of Liberty when hailing the Viking longship from atop a cairn.
- The Peasant Wedding by Bruegel the Elder is recreated in Asterix in Belgium.
- A page in 2012's Swamp Thing #4 references The Runaway by Norman Rockwell.
- Red Soul (third album of Blacksad) referenses "Connoisseur" by Norman Rockwell.
- "Happy Batsgiving", one of DC Comics' double-page deeply-symbolic-of-upcoming-stories art peices, is based on "The First Thanksgiving◊" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.
- "Abandon All Hope", another of these, focusing on Justice League Dark and related characters, is based on the bottom right corner of "The Last Judgement◊" by Michelangelo.
- Nighthawks also was used on the cover of the Pearls Before Swine print collection, "Nighthogs".
- Happens a lot in De Kiekeboes too.
Films — Animation
- The Venus de Milo is frequently used, usually in period pieces where the whole statue is shown and then the arms are "accidentally" broken off. Used in Disney's Hercules at least.
Films — Live-Action
- This trope is used in the chase scene of Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Especially effective since the characters are running through an art museum.
- In John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), at the end of the trial scene, young Abe (Henry Fonda) is seen sitting in a chair, his head bowed in thought, in the exact posture of the Daniel Chester French statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen features Venus herself, appearing like in the Botticelli painting.
- Barry Lyndon, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is visually modelled on rococo paintings, especially Watteau's. The effect is gorgeous.
- One scene in Italian horror movie The Church (La Chiesah, 1989, writen by Dario Argento and directed by Michele Soavi) is taken directly from a Boris Vallejo painting "Vampire's Kiss". Also, the design for the lizard-demon-gargoyle creature is taken from a infamous 1600s wood-carving depicting a man selling his soul to the devil.
- Quite a bit of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead seems to be about this.
- Artist Paul Kidby loves these. So far he's done:
- In The Illustrated Wee Free Men Stephen Player does a couple of pictures based on Richard Dadd's The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke, since the scene in the book is specifically stated in the Author's Note to be based on that painting.
- Marc Simonetti's covers from the French translations of the books include:
- One edition of Dave Barry Slept Here has the cover parodying Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware," with the river filled with ice cubes instead of water and a character resembling the author sleeping in the back of the rowboat. (The painting is not only referenced in the text but ruthlessly mocked.)
- In Cycle 5 of America's Next Top Model, when there were five contestants left, the challenge was to for each "recreate" a classic work of art, being Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother, The Vitruvian Man, The Birth of Venus, and Girl with a Pearl Earring.
- In the ad campaign for Nip/Tuck, women getting plastic surgery are positioned to resemble classical works, including Venus de Milo.
- The painting of 19th Century Tavern-Goers used in the opening of Cheers at least tried to match up imagery of the patrons with characters on the show as the actor credits flashed by.
- The Silence in Doctor Who look incredibly like Edvard Munch's The Scream; Word of God says the in-universe explanation for this is that they've been subconsciously influencing our art and culture for centuries.
- Nighthawks has also been used in Dead Like Me.
- In MAD's "20 Dumbest People, Events and Places of 1999," the illustration for #2 was a parody of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" with Hillary Clinton looking across a field towards the U.S. Capitol.
- Queen have a song called "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke", which strongly resembles the painting already mentionned in the Discworld examples.
- The Kermitage Collection is a collection of famous paintings redone to star The Muppets, including The Mona Moi (Piggy), Whistler's Weirdo (Gonzo), The Birth of You-Know-Who (Piggy again), American Gothique (Piggy and Kermit), Jester at the Court of Henry VIII (Fozzie) and so on...
- The final scene of 1776 is intended to be blocked so that the final positions of all the actors at the curtain calls to mind the Savage/Pine engraving of the Signing, although it's rarely exact.
- The first act of Sunday In The Park With George ends with a Tableau recreating Georges Seurat's famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The act also has scenes recreating Seurat's paintings Bathing Place, Asnières and Woman Powdering her Nose.
- Tales of Monkey Island
- In "Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal", there is a Desingeograph of the "Vitruvian Pirate", which Guybrush calls "Pirate Da Vinci", on the Illuminopictoscreen; this "Vitruvian Pirate" is definitely a spoof of Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.
- In Chapter 4, the provocative painting of Chieftain Beluga hanging above W.P. Grindstump in Club 41 is most likely a parody of the 1636 painting Danaë by Rembrandt Van Rijn.
- In Skullgirls, the opening shot for Fillia's story mode is yet another homage to Nighthawks.
- Mr. Goemon (the Arcade Game) has enemies surfing on the crest of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
- The title screen of Policenauts has a figure traced from da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, but in a spacesuit and pointing a gun.
- Buried deep in the bizarre abandoned MMO/chat room Worlds is the "Escher Tribute" area, based on the ever-famous Relativity, with physics to match. Can be seen here at about 29 minutes in.
- The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Adele, coached by Jane, drew several pictures based on famous paintings and art styles in episode 5. They included Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt, and Vincent van Gogh (one picture reminded a bit of his Starry Night). Adele's last picture was inspired by The Son of Man by René Magritte (a face obscured by an apple).