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:
- Pietà Plagiarism (Michelangelo Buonarroti's Pietà)
- Thinker Pose (Auguste Rodin's Thinker)
- Mona Lisa Smile (Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa)
- American Gothic Couple (Grant Wood's American Gothic)
- "Last Supper" Steal (the tableau from Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper)
- Nighthawks Shot (Edward Hopper's Nighthawks)
- The Scream (Edvard Munch's The Scream)
- Sistine Steal (Michelangelo's ceiling of the Sistine Chapel)
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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.
- Sound of the Sky's opening credits also contain numerous allusions to Gustav Klimt's work.
- This picture◊ of Shimoneta references Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.
- One episode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt featured Garterbelt being revived by God and forced to relive all of human history. References to famous paintings, photographs and film stills abound.
- 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 Theodore Géricault.
- In Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, on the same page a Roman slave takes poses of Auguste 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 van Rijn.
- 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 Pieter 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 pieces, 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".
- In Suske en Wiske:
- "Het Spaanse Spook" ("The Spanish Ghost"): Suske, Wiske and Lambik are zapped into Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "Peasant Wedding" where they have an adventure in the 16th century. They also meet Bruegel himself.
- "Het Rijmende Paard" ("The Rhyming Horse") the painting of St. Martin Dividing His Cloak by Anthony Van Dyck is brought alive to teach humanity about sharing. By accident it's just his horse that escapes from the painting and needs to be brought back.
- Happens a lot in De Kiekeboes too. In the story "Hotel O." all the rooms are named after famous painters and various references are made to these works. For instance a vase with sun flowers being brought to the Vincent van Gogh room.
- Coincidentally, the same week in 2015 saw the release of TPBs of Lumberjanes and Prez (2015) which both had covers featuring female protagonists in parodies of Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware".
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. This joke was used in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976) for instance and later stolen for Disney's Hercules (1997) too.
- The end credits of Cinderella III: A Twist in Time feature depictions of the characters in parodies of famous paintings. Fox example, Gus appears as the Blue Boy, and the Grand Duke is in The Scream.
- The end credits for Lilo & Stitch features a snapshot of a Thanksgiving dinner styled like Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want.
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 Thomas Gainsborough and Antoine Watteau. The effect is gorgeous.
- One scene in Italian horror movie The Church (La Chiesa, 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.
- When Charles Laughton is first seen in The Private Life of Henry VIII, he is standing in a doorway in the exact same pose◊ that Henry VIII struck for the famous Hans Holbein portait◊.
- Bram Stoker's Dracula: Dracula's castle is modeled after the painting "The Black Idol" (1903) by Frantisek Kupka.
- One of Juliet's visions in Juliet of the Spirits is a shot of a nude woman in a clamshell a-la Botticelli's "Birth of Venus"◊.
- Quite a bit of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead seems to be about this.
- Artist Paul Kidby loves these. So far he's done:
- Wright's Experiment With Air-Pump (The Science of Discworld cover);
- Rembrandt van Rijn's The Night Watch (er, Night Watch cover);
- Raising The Flag on Iwo Jima (Monstrous Regiment cover);
- Mona Lisa (Leonard of Quirm's "The Mona Ogg", Art of Discworld' cover);
- The Thinker (Detritus as "Da Finker" in The Art of Discworld);
- Holman Hunt's The Hireling Shepherd (Leonard and Gytha again in The Art of Discworld);
- American Gothic (Death and Miss Flitworth in The Art of Discworld);
- Parrish's The Pied Piper (Maurice and Keith for The Discworld Calendar 2003);
- The cover of Sergeant Pepper (The Band With Rocks In for The Discworld Calendar 2012)
- Frank Franzetta's Conan the Barbarian Leg Cling picture (Gender Flipped with Conina the Barbarian hairdresser and Rincewind for The Discworld Calendar 2012)
- The Last Hero alone includes the final scene of Conan the Barbarian (1982) (Cohen in the frontispiece); the Bayeaux Tapestry (the Silver Horde in the other frontispiece); Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (Leonard's design for a NASA-style training centrifuge); Munch's The Scream (Rincewind's reaction to the elephants); Wright's Philosopher at the Orrery (the wizards plotting the route of the Kite); the Sistine Chapel (Cohen giving the finger to the gods) and probably more.
- 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:
- Artist Paul Kidby loves these. So far he's done:
- 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.)
- The cover◊ of one cheap Sci-fi book homages Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.
- 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.
- Doctor Who:
- In "Warriors' Gate", the ruined Gate is copied from Caspar David Friedrich's painting Klosterfriedhof im Schnee (Monastery Graveyard in the Snow).
- The Silents 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.
- 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...
- An often-reprinted Sesame Street coloring book features Muppetized versions of a variety of famous paintings.
- 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.
- In Marat/Sade, when Marat finally gets killed, he poses as in Jacques-Louis David's painting of his death.
- 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.
- Mystical Fighter for the Sega Genesis has copies of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa on fusuma midway through the first stage.
- The cover art for You Are Empty copies Dmitry Moor's famous Red Army recruitment poster, except the soldier's face and hands are skeletonized.
- 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).
- The Simpsons:
Cherub Lenny: Homer, what’s the matter?
- In "The Crepes Of Wrath" Bart and his chauffeur pass through landscapes which are all references to famous paintings made in France, including works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Édouard Manet.
- In "The Last Temptation Of Homer" The Birth of Venus◊ by Sandro Botticelli was referenced when Homer is fantasizing about Mindy.
Cherub Carl: Ain't you never seen a naked chick riding a clam before?
- Nighthawks has also been used in The Simpsons.
- In "Bart Gets Hit By A Car" Bart goes to Hell, where he sees Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden Of Earthly Delights" recreated.
- In Treehouse Of Horror IV, in a parody of Night Gallery several famous paintings by René Magritte, M. C. Escher, Salvador Dalí, Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Giorgio De Chirico, Jacques-Louis David, and Pablo Picasso are parodied. Even "Dogs Playing Poker" by Cassius Marsellus Coolidge is featured.
- Homer's dream sequence in "Mom and Pop Art" is also a Shout-Out to several famous paintings (Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Leonardo da Vinci).
- Nighthawks has been briefly referenced in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "The Mask".
- The Smurfs episode "Painter And Poet" has Painter creating Smurf versions of The Blue Boy, Whistler's Mother, Mona Lisa, and Henry VIII Of England.
- In the Steven Universe episode "So Many Birthdays", Steven finds an old painting in Amethyst's room that's a parody of Copley's "Watson and the Shark", with Steven's mom Rose Quartz and the Crystal Gems on the boat and Garnet punching out a shark.
Garnet: The hard part was getting the shark to pose.