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Art Imitates Art

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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: 
  • Le Violon d'Ingres (by Man Ray)


    Anime & Manga 

  • Manet had a deep understanding of art history, having based Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe off of Judgement of Paris (ca. 1515) by Marcantonio Raimondi and Raphael, Pastoral Concert by Giorgione or Titian, The Tempest by Giorgione and La Partie Carrée by Antoine Watteau.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • The cover of Adventure Comics #247, portraying the three founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes behind a desk with name tags judging Superboy as unworthy of their "super-hero club" gets homaged occasionally:
    • The cover of Superman #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 Dark Horse 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 L.E.G.I.O.N. 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.
  • 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 or this one of Deathstroke and the Teen Titans.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bible Times movies covering Jesus will often homage the Pietà pose with the actual people involved. For instance, Jesus of Nazareth has Mary wailing in her grief as she cradles her son, while The Passion of the Christ has her suffer in silence and stare at the viewer.
  • Zack Snyder loves Renaissance/classical imagery, particularly religious art, and it shows in his films.
  • The 1935 film version of David Copperfield has several scenes staged to resemble the original illustrations from the novel, most notably the early scene of David and family at church, which is an exact copy of the drawing from the book.
  • 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 an 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.
  • In documentary feature Faces Places, co-directors Agnès Varda and JR talk about a decades-old photo she took of photographer Guy Bourdin sitting against an old beach shack. Then JR sits against the same beach shack in the exact same pose.
  • Ridley Scott's Gladiator has been described as a "dark Alma-Tadema"; indeed, the Anglo-Dutch painter's visions of Roman life served as a central inspiration for the film's production designers. His influence can be seen in the lavish sets and Janty Yates' costume designs, particularly for Lucilla.
  • The 2015 Filipino Biopic Heneral Luna has the titular Historical Domain Character and his men die in a tableau deliberately shot to resemble the Spoliarium, a famous mural done by his artist older brother, Juan Luna, which shows dead gladiators being dragged away into the depths of the Roman Colosseum, as greedy onlookers wait for a chance at their possessions. (Needless to say this was unlikely how they died in Real Life.)
  • Juarez: One scene shows a Mexican patriot getting shot by French firing squad. Standing against a wall, wearing a white shirt, he throws out his arms and says "Viva Benito Juarez!" before the soldiers shoot him. The scene is staged to mirror the famous Goya painting, "The Third of May, 1808".
  • 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".
  • Lawrence Alma-Tadema's portrayal of Ancient Egypt heavily influenced the art design on The Ten Commandments (1956), The Finding of Moses. Director Cecil B. DeMille reportedly instructed set designers to study the paintings in order to achieve his artistic vision.
  • "Trevor": Trevor the natural-born Large Ham recreates "The Death of Marat" in his bathtub, complete with fake blood and quill.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show enough references to art that it has its own folder on the Shout Out page. Notable examples are the iconic lips in the movie's logo being inspired by Man Ray's painting A l'heure de l'observatoire, les Amoureux (Observatory Time, The Lovers) and the American Gothic Couple being referenced multiple times.
  • Henry V: Much of the scenes with the French court are staged to resemble scenes from the "Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry", a famous illustrated manuscript that was produced around the time of Agincourt. Towards the end the movie stages a copy of the famous February illustration from that manuscript, with Pistol in the place of the man warming himself by the fire.
  • Sin: When Michelangelo comes to see a Medici cardinal, there's a lady with an ermine in her arms in the room. This is of course a reference to the famous 1489-1490 painting of the same name by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Die Unbekannte was the film of a book which was inspired by the famous death mask "L'Inconnue de la Seine". The mask features a woman with a mysterious smile much like the Mona Lisa. As Madeline is drowning herself for the Downer Ending, she assumes a placid smile just like the mask's.
  • The Cell: Some of the film's striking imagery is based on artwork. For example, the scene featuring the three women with their heads thrown back and mouths open is based on the painting Dawn by Odd Nedrum.
  • Titanic (1997): Almost every long shot of the ship is a recreation of Ken Marschall's paintings, from Titanic docked in Cherbourg to Carpathia arriving to pick up the survivors.
  • Ophelia takes quite a bit of inspiration from Pre-Raphaelite style art:


    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 Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother, The Vitruvian Man, The Birth of Venus, and Girl with a Pearl Earring.
  • 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 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.

  • Queen have a song called "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke", which strongly resembles the painting already mentioned in the Discworld examples.

    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 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.
  • In EarthBound (1994), the melting clock from Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory is trying to kill you.
  • Rin's Act 3 ("Distance") in Katawa Shoujo has both Hisao posing like The Thinker and armless Rin posing like Venus de Milo, and a promotional montage incorporating all the girls' handicaps makes up a version of Vitruvian Man.
  • 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

    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.

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