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Art Imitates Art

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Top: Jean Leone Gerome Ferris' The First Thanksgiving, 1621. Bottom: Ditto, but with Batman characters.

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.

The broader trope is Stock Shout-Out, which covers similar items from pop culture rather than fine art.

Compare Truth in Television and Life Imitates Art, where this inspirational transition is made beyond the fourth wall. Not to be confused with the simple fact that artists imitate other artists.

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    Specific subtropes include: 

    Works of art that are often imitated without a subtrope existing for them include: 


    Anime & Manga 

  • One way to depict the Grecorroman Love Goddess is the "Venus Pudica", which was very popular during the Hellenistic period. It features her as self-conscious of her own nakedness and divine beauty, causing her to daintily try and cover her breasts and crotch. It contrasts with other common takes on her, in which she neither flaunts nor cares about her looks but is merely solemn. It draws from the goddess' early days when she was still a virgin. Several artworks featuring the goddess are modeled after it, the most influential one being the Capitoline Venus and its replica, the Aphrodite of Menophantos. Both sculptures share the positioning of the hands, the presence of a towel/sheet, and the fact that the goddess is fresh off a bath. Depictions in paintings include Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
  • Academicism was all about this trope — using a not-so-Small Reference Pool (the Classical Mythology and Christianity) following strict rules of proportion and composition, which greatly hindered creativity and caused artists to repeat the masters' artworks over and over. Alexandre Cabanel, despite disagreeing with it in his youth, won a contest by imitating Giorgione's Sleeping Venus. He later learned to give his own Original Flavor to such Neoclassicist paintings.
  • The Birth of Venus (Cabanel): It's said to be one of the more famous works of art directly inspired by the Trope Codifier of the Reclining Venus Sleeping Venus.
  • Medici Chapels: Sleeping Ariadne, an ancient Rome sculpture, loosely influences three of the allegorical statues. All of them are in resting positions. "Night", in particular, is also sleeping. "Dawn" has just woken up and "Dusk" is preparing to sleep. "Day", by contrast, has an energetic posture.
  • Édouard Manet had a deep understanding of art history, having based Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe on the Judgement of Paris (ca. 1515) by Marcantonio Raimondi and Raphael, Pastoral Concert by Creator/{{Giorgione} or Titian, The Tempest by Giorgione and La Partie Carrée by Antoine Watteau.
  • Grande Odalisque: Much like various other historical examples of the Reclining Venus, Ingres admitted that his primary inspiration for Grande Odalisque was the Dresden Venus and the Venus Of Urbino.
  • The figura serpentinata prevalent in the Mannerist movement was a big influence on the composition of Bernini's The Rape of Proserpina, Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabine Women being the most obvious in similarities.
  • Henry Fuseli's 1781 painting The Nightmare -depicting a Sleep Paralysis Creature squatting on the chest of a dozing woman, while a Hellish Horse watches— has become a staple of this. Fuseli himself painted a few variations on the theme throughout the 1780s and '90s, and the Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard painted his own Hotter and Sexier version in 1800. To a less overt extent, it was also likely an influence of Francisco de Goya's The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters, which shows a male sleeper being tormented by strange creatures — in this case, a swarm of bats and owls.
  • Nue Couchée: The Reclining Venus pose that it emulates is interpreted as being from the back of the model not unlike Grande Odalisque.
  • Most of the paintings and drawings on Aza Smith's Grindhouse and Watercolors are representational depictions of his ragdolls, which are considered artwork in it of themselves.
  • Venus And Cupid Lotto: It's but one of many paintings that came out with the blockbusting popularity of the Dresden Venus, the subject matter and the Reclining Venus position being one of the larger signs of this.
  • Salvador Dali's "Venus de Milo with Drawers" is a replica of the Venus de Milo with certain segments cutoff to resemble drawers with fluffy balls as handlers.
  • Young Hylas with the Water Nymphs:
  • Olympia:
    • The painting itself deliberately pays homage to Titian's Venus of Urbino.
    • Olympia's fame would go on to inspire a number of homages, including Portrait (Futago) by Yasumasa Morimura and A Modern Olympia by Paul Cézanne.

    Comic Books 
  • The last panel of Valérian's adventure "On the False Earths" references Luncheon of the Boating Party, a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
  • René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo have recreations of various famous paintings or sculptures scattered throughout the Asterix books.
  • A page in 2012's Swamp Thing #4 references The Runaway by Norman Rockwell.
  • Red Soul (third album of Blacksad) references "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.
  • 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 sunflowers 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".
  • 2000 AD artists seem to love putting Judge Death in place of The Joker in homages to old Brian Bolland artworks (who has worked on both 2000AD and DC properties).
  • DC Comics Bombshells: The Batgirls (Alysia Yeoh, Felicity Smoak, Harper Row, Kathleen Duquesne, Mary Kane, and Nell Little), Cullen Row and Tim Drake all eat lunch on a steel girder posed like the subjects of the famous depression era photo "Lunch atop a Skyscraper"—generally attributed to Charles C. Ebbets— of construction workers eating high above New York's streets while working on Rockefeller Center.
  • The pose of Superboy cockily smirking over his shoulder at the viewer while pointing with his thumb over his other shoulder at the S symbol on the back of his jacket from The Adventures of Superman has been used on a couple of covers; Byron Stark is in a mirrored version of the pose on the cover of Superboy and the Ravers #3, and Kon himself uses it again on the cover of Convergence: Superboy #1.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • The cover of Adventure Comics #247: The Legion of Super-Heroes!, portraying the three founders of the team behind a desk with name tags judging Superboy as unworthy of their "super-hero club" gets homaged occasionally:
      • The cover of Superman 1939 #147 revisits the theme with the Legion characters replaced by their evil counterparts.
      • The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 4 #88 sees the trio—Lighting Lad replaced by his sister—trying to reject Impulse but finding their buttons aren't working while Imp holds sparking wires behind his back.
      • The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 5 #48 depicts most of the Legion behind tiered desks with name tags watching tryouts for the club.
      • The cover of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #29 painted by Alex Ross features the same characters as the original but in a more realistic style with more dramatic lighting.
      • The cover of Simpsons Comics #68 has the classic set up, poses and props with Homer being rejected by other Simpsons characters all dressed as superheroes.
      • The cover of Creator/Dark Horse|Comics}} Presents #115 has odd characters dressed somewhat like the Legion trio rejecting Dr. Spin's application to their superhero club.
      • One of the back-up strips in the LEGION Elseworlds Annual was a Retraux story featuing a Silver Age version of L.E.G.I.O.N. The opening panel showed them on an intergalactic quiz show where the host was wearing a Superman costume (without the Chest Insignia), and they relayed their answers with the same Yes/No buttons.
    • "Those Emerald Eyes Are Shining": The cover of issue #301 is a homage to the cover of Adventure Comics #300, wherein the magazine became the Legion of Super-Heroe's official "home".
  • The infamous Brian Bollard artwork of The Joker lounging in front of a wall of superheroes' mounted heads has been homaged with other villains, such as this one of Judge Death, this one of Deathstroke and the Teen Titans, and this one of Kraven the Hunter and various Spiderman characters.
  • The covers of Action Comics #1 (with Superman lifting a car and smashing it against a rock), Superman #1 (with Superman leaping over the city in an oval panel with a fancy border) and Action Comics #252 (with Supergirl flying out of her rocketship before the shocked stare of Superman) are frequently homaged by both DC and other companies to introduce a Superman Substitute or a "new chapter" in Clark's life.
  • Detective Comics (Rebirth) #965, part one of "A Lonely Place of Living", has a cover based on that of Batman #441, part three of "A Lonely Place of Dying". Both show Tim Drake holding a Robin costume and looking at it uncertainly, with the faces of Batman and the villain (Two-Face/Mr Oz) superimposed in the background, and the other main characters (Alfred and Dick/Batwoman, Clayface, Batwing, Orphan and Azrael) standing behind him.
  • A variant cover of Deathstroke Inc. #8, is an almost exact duplicate of the cover of Deathstroke the Terminator #1, complete with title design and the old DC Bullet logo, except that Slade is in his current outfit, is toting an even bigger gun, and the background shows the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, rather than a generic cityscape.
  • The Flash vol 2 twice duplicated notable covers from the same number of vol 1:
    • The cover of #105, which sees the return of the second Mirror Master is based on the vol. 1 cover which introduced the original. Except that while Barry was running towards a row of mirrors with identical reflections of Scudder, Wally is running through a crazy mirror dimension with McCulloch reflected in random shards from all angles.
    • The cover of #123, in which Wally had become the official hero of Santa Marta, California, commuting from Keystone, duplicated the famous "The Flash of Two Worlds" cover, except that instead of Barry and Jay both rushing to rescue the same man, it showed two Wallys rushing to rescue different men in the same pose (one wearing a Hawaiian shirt and with palm trees in the background).
  • Similarly, the cover of Green Lantern vol.3 #76, which began a crossover with Green Arrow under the title "Hard-Travelling Heroes: The Next Generation" shows Kyle using a ring-created arrow to destroy Conner's bow, in an identical composition to Ollie firing an arrow at Hal's power battery on the cover of vol.2 #76, which began the original "Hard-Travelling Heroes" storyline. It even uses a modernised version of the "Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow" logo introduced in that issue, which continued for the rest of the crossover.

    Comic Strips 
  • Given that one of the main characters of Safe Havens is a child, time traveling Leonardo da Vinci, it's surprising it doesn't happen more often. But in one notable instance, he shows that his painting "The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne" is actually a family portrait he paints of himself, his mother Maria, and his stepmother Bambi, to show his mother in the past that she would find love again.

    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 (Munch)".
  • The end credits for Lilo & Stitch features a snapshot of a Thanksgiving dinner styled like Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want.
  • Mad God never recreates a specific painting, but the director has said that the goal was to capture the feel of a Hieronymous Bosch work, albeit with a somewhat more Diesel Punk aesthetic.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 The Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother, The Vitruvian Man, The Birth of Venus, and Girl with a Pearl Earring.
  • The cinematography in the first season of Andor includes several allusions to Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, for example these two.
  • Bridgerton: The portrait of the Bridgerton brothers in the family home is a send-up of a 1761-66 painting of Henry Fane, Inigo Jones, and Charles Blair by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
  • 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 "Terror of the Autons", a Time Lord messenger appears as a man in a bowler hat and business suit, but floating in mid-air. This is a shout-out to Rene Magritte's painting "Golconda", which has similarly dressed men falling into a cityscape like raindrops.
    • The Fourth Doctor's iconic silhouette with wide-brimmed hat, long scarf and overcoat was inspired by the stage garb of the late-nineteenth-century cabaret singer and comedian Aristide Bruant, as immortalised in famous posters for him by Toulouse-Lautrec.
    • In "Warriors' Gate", the ruined Gate is copied from Caspar David Friedrich's painting Klosterfriedhof im Schnee (Monastery Graveyard in the Snow).
    • The Silence look incredibly like The Scream (Munch); Word of God says the in-universe explanation for this is that they've been subconsciously influencing our art and culture for centuries.
    • The Undergallery in The Day of the Doctor has some of these, including a version of The Raft of the Medusa with Cybermen.
    • "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": The Stenza travel pod is visually reminiscent of the "Nancy style" of art nouveau glassware.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:
    • In the prologue, Galadriel sits beside a big pile of Elvish helmets in a desolated forest. The visuals of that scene resembles a work of the 19th-century Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin — "The Apotheosis of War".
    • Some costumes seem to be inspired by artworks too, like Galadriel wearing the golden dress in Lindon, and Queen Regent Miriel wearing a white dress with golden applications with a blue paledamentum over her shoulder, pay homage to Girl With A Golden Wreath by Leon Francois Comerre, and respectively, to Zenobia's last look on Palmyra by Herbert Gustave Schmalz.
    • Galadriel's armors are both inspired by different paintings of Joan D'Arc, such as "Joan of Arc" by John Everett Millais and Charles-Amable Lenoir, and the 1854 "Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
    • Disa's dress and hairstyle are inspired by several works by Gustav Klimt.
    • One of the Dwarven ladies witnessing the challenge between Elrond and Durin wears a headdress clearly inspired by the Iberian sculpture of the Lady of Elche.
    • Elendil's white armour is very similar to the book cover made by Violet Oakley for the mythical hero Lohengrin, Knight of the Swan, in 1910.
  • In the ad campaign for Nip/Tuck, women getting plastic surgery are positioned to resemble classical works, including Venus de Milo.

  • 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.


    Puppet Shows 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Mr. Goemon (the Arcade Game) has enemies surfing on the crest of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
  • 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 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.
  • In EarthBound (1994), the melting clock from Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory is trying to kill you.
  • The various paintings by Charles Chatenay in Red Dead Redemption II are based off of various real world paintings that were made during the Fauvist Movement, including Woman in a Chemise by André Derain, Reclining Nude in Blue with Straw Hat by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Study of a Nude and Nude on a Yellow Sofa by Henri Matisse. Chatenay himself seems to be mainly an expy of Paul Gauguin.
  • World of Warcraft: Gokk'lok's Shell is a novelty item that makes your character stand naked inside a large clam shell, à la the Birth of Venus.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Picture Pastiche


The Wallflower

Sunako imitates various famous paintings in a photoshoot, much to the photographer's aggravation.

How well does it match the trope?

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