Somebody's hidden a safe, or other valuable object, behind a painting on the wall. In a common joke, the safe is hidden behind a painting of a safe.
To be fair, a painting is probably the most obvious object to hide a safe behind; on the other hand, a painting is consequently the most obvious place to look for a safe
. People rarely seem to consider installing safes behind other common objects hanging on walls, such as mirrors and tapestries.
Sometimes the painting will suggest the presence of the safe, the nature of the valuables or perhaps even be a clue to the safe's code.
This is ridiculously common in Interactive Fiction
and Point And Click Games
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- Biff's office in Back To The Future Part II.
- Wallace & Gromit had this in The Wrong Trousers. Wallace hides his piggy bank in a safe, behind a picture of a piggy bank.
- Hoodwinked: Red Puckett retrieves her Granny's recipe book from a safe concealed behind a portrait of (a person who is implied to be) her grandfather. It's very possible that she knows the bandit might guess the safe's location.
- Entrapment does this.
- James Bond:
- There's a safe behind a painting of Hitler in the movie Valkyrie.
- Kind Hearts and Coronets: Louis Mazzini's family tree, on which he records who he has to kill to become Duke, is taped to the back of a painting.
- Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock quickly checks the safe behind his painting is still locked after waking up to find Irene Adler in the room.
- The Pink Panther has a double-ended safe behind two paintings.
- Discussed in the 1972 film adaptation of Sleuth. When looking for the safe, Milo dismisses the painting of Andrew's wife as the hiding place as he has seen it too often on TV.
- The first Artemis Fowl plays with this: it has a safe hidden behind a painting... which is a decoy for the safe built into the frame of the painting.
- In typical Frederick Forsyth fashion, The Fourth Protocol meticulously details the locating and destruction of a safe hidden behind a painting.
- In The Three Investigators volume The Case of the Weeping Coffin, the eccentric millionaire's house is littered with these, to the point that the curtain that doesn't conceal a safe is interesting.
- In the novelization of DC Comics' Knightfall story, there's a safe behind a painting in one of Wayne's offices. The safe is actually just another layer of distraction to protect the real secret: the spare Batman costume folded up in the picture frame.
Live Action TV
- In season 3 of Heroes, a stolen formula is hidden behind the Mona Lisa.
- An episode of The Monkees had a safe behind a painting of a safe behind a painting. That is, the "regular" painting was removed from the wall to show a painting of a safe, which was removed to show a real safe.
- LOST: Ben Linus keeps all his information on Charles Widmore in a wall safe behind a painting.
- On Leverage, we learn Hardison has hidden large quantities of cash inside the frame of his painting of Harlan Leverage III (AKA Old Nate).
- Played with on Burn Notice.
- In one episode, an art dealer has hung a stolen painting on the wall and covered it with another, larger, painting.
- In another, an assassin hides a disc of sensitive data inside the wall - concealing the hiding place with a layer of plaster.
- In a few episodes it's noted that it's foolish to hide things in those places and suggested that the best places to hide small things of value are behind door hinges (unscrewed and hollowed out) and that the best places to hide bugs are behind receptacle covers because no one looks there and there is a steady source of power.
- In the episode "The Duo is Slumming" the plans for an airplane are in a wall safe concealed by a painting.
- In the episode "That Darn Catwoman" stately Wayne Manor has a wall safe hidden behind a painting.
- At least once in Alias: Vaughn goes to Virginia to his wife's mother's house and has to steal a code. The code is in a safe on the wall behind a painting, and the painting even has hinges on the right side attaching it to the wall and facilitating access to the safe.
- Doctor Who had variations on this from time to time. In "The War Games," for example, a painting in the World War I general's quarters concealed his SIDRAT (a knockoff TARDIS) controls. In "The Five Doctors, a door could only be opened by playing a tune on Rassilon's harp. A nearby painting of Rassilon playing that harp showed the tune.
- In Charmed, Cole hides a safe behind a portrait in his penthouse apartment when he's the Source. It doesn't have anything in it except a posthumous note to his wife, though.
- Interestingly inverted on Hustle. Their mark had stolen a new security system that was effectively unbeatable and was now marketing it by offering to secure a painting and cover the theft liability without insurance. Because the system couldn't be defeated due to being sewn into the painting itself, they build a false wall in front of it to avoid detection and blackmail the mark with his "stolen" painting due to the fact that the mark would be liable for the multimillion quid cost.
- Invoked in "The Frame" from the original Mission: Impossible: The team is assigned to stop the rise to power of a murderous Syndicate crime boss. They infiltrate during a big gathering of other bosses. One of the things they do is to install a small round wall safe behind a painting in his bedroom, while at the same time raiding his safe.
- UFO episode "Exposed". Paul Foster breaks into the Ventura Aircraft Corporation to find evidence that he saw a UFO. He looks behind several paintings on a wall and eventually pulls one back, revealing a safe hidden behind it.
- Call of Cthulhu:
- Utatti Asfet has two wall safes behind paintings: one behind a lithograph of the Mississippi paddle wheeler "The Bayou Queen", and one behind a portrait of Father Michael Thibidoux, a Cthulhuoid cultist.
- The Asylum and Other Tales adventure "The Asylum". In Doctor Freygan's bedroom there's a painting that's slightly askew. Behind the painting is a wall safe with $5,000 worth of antique gold coins.
- Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft supplement Chilling Tales, adventure "Undying Justice". Sir Robert's study has a wall safe hidden behind a picture. It contains his journal, which mentions his murder of a man he (mistakenly) thought was having an affair with his wife.
Truth In Television
- 2027: Your safehouse in Paris has one.
- A few apartments in Deus Ex: Human Revolution have safes hidden behind paintings, Adam Jenson has an emergency stash hidden behind his TV which slides up on the wall (It contains a pistol, some ammo, and a bit of cash, along with some non-interactive medicine).
- One of the first levels of the first Splinter Cell featured this.
- This is the first place to look for safes when you're a thief in the Quest for Glory games. The fourth game hangs a lampshade on this in the Thieves' Manual, explaining that people still do it despite the trope being well-known because they are stupid.
- Dr. Fred's safe in Maniac Mansion and Day Of The Tentacle is hidden behind a portrait of him, with hair.
- In Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, not only are safes hidden behind paintings, but the combinations are hidden in the paintings.
- Pokémon Red and Blue - the switch to open a secret door lies behind a poster in the Celadon Game Corner.
- In Covert Action safes are obvious, but in some objects the Player Character can hide bugs in break-in mode, and painting on the wall is one of them: turn it, plant a bug, turn it back. Also you see the guards walking around sometimes quickly open and close those paintings, presumably to check for bugs some "inventive" spy always may leave behind.
- Used in the Baldur's Gate series of CRPGs, mainly by inferring that there are secret compartments behind clickable paintings. Subverted once in Shadows of Amn, however: attempting to pick a locked door in a thieves' guild would reveal that it's just an incredibly elaborate painting with a doorknob attached.
- It's probably easier to list the Room Escape games that don't use this trope.
- Medal of Honor: Frontline: there is a villa, inside the villa is a map hidden behind a painting and documents in a cuckoo clock. There are controller breaking numbers of cuckoo clocks and paintings AND WHAT WERE YOU DEVELOPERS THINKING
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: inside the Redoran manors in Ald'rhun a door is hidden behind tapestries.
- In Ace Attorney Investigations, each prosecutor's office contains a wall safe meant to store evidence needed for trials. Edgeworth hides his behind the suit jacket and vest he keeps framed and hanging on his wall.
- One of the easiest ways to hide a treasure stash in Minecraft is to make an adjacent room and hide it behind a 12x12 painting. Preferably you'll have an iron door behind it and the room itself blocked with obsidian, because this technique is so old it's pretty much the first thing people think of when they see said giant paintings.
- In Penumbra Black Plague, an Air-Vent Passageway is hidden behind an odd painting.
- In C'est la Vie, expat French siblings Mona and Pierre Montrois are bequeathed the lifetime collection of artworks created by an eccentric uncle. They are less than enthralled by this until they realise their real inheritance is several hundred thousand francs that their uncle has hidden in the frames, so as to evade French taxation and death duties.
- Problem Sleuth has a few of these, subverted in every possible way. Early on, we see that Problem Sleuth's safe is just a blank facade, concealing a painting. Not to mention the safe hidden behind his window. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Futurama: "Bender's Big Score" has the safe behind a painting of the Professor opening the painting to find the safe.
- An episode of The Simpsons had this in Burns' mansion. Bart, being genre savvy, searches for it, only to find a Beefeater guard as well.
- Non-safe (unsafe?) example: Vlad Masters of Danny Phantom hides a portal to the ghost zone behind a painting of himself. On the other hand, the Ghost Zone side of the portal is "concealed" behind a giant football. Vlad, by the way, is a massive Green Bay Packers fan.
- Darkwing Duck hides a safe behind a family portrait at home. This works until the safe itself runs away. He also has another of these, holding his case files, in his secret lair.
- Painter Smurf hides a stash of smurfberry candy inside his own painting in The Smurfs episode "Smurfette's Sweet Tooth".