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Artistic License Art

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Left Actual size. Right The result of 861 years of expansion, apparently

The world of art as portrayed in stories is often inaccurate. Since the needs of the story outweigh the need for accuracy and Tropes Are Tools, creators will often have their protagonist roll up a canvas Mona Lisa and carry it off in a tube, although Leonardo da Vinci painted it on a wood panel.

The creator may or may not be aware of the artistic license being taken. There may be easy ways around the Plot Hole addressed through the artistic license or it could be practically impossible to tell the creator's story without this break from reality. The artwork can be a painting, a poem, a song, a building, an invention, or any other piece that would be called art. It includes taking liberties with how the world of art works, such as speeding up the time it take to appraise a piece, or how museums acquire artwork. It also includes distorting facts about the world of art and artworks.


Contrast with Artistic License – History. This is not a trope about anachronisms. Should a piece of artwork not exist in the time period of the story, such as Buddy Holly playing a 1965 Fender Stratocaster in 1959, history is the problem, not the artwork. Should Buddy be playing a banjo rather than his Stratocaster, the artwork has changed and fits this trope.

Contrast with Hollywood Density. Should Michelangelo's David be picked up by a crane or person(!) that couldn't possibly lift 6 tons, but is still 17 feet tall and looks the same as in real life, that's Hollywood Density. If it's presented as a 6-foot-tall statue it fits this trope.

Can be averted through Fictional Painting. The artwork or process must be presented as Real Life in order for the artistic license to be taken.

Songs performed wrong, poems misquoted, paintings painted on the wrong material, buildings such as the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal misrepresented, and museums behind elaborate plots to steal all of Van Gogh's paintings are all possible examples of this trope. The key is that the story references a facet of the world of art as if it is authentic and the depiction is different from reality in a meaningful way.


Subtrope of Artistic License and related to Artistic License – Music.

Supertrope of Wrongfully Attributed.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Da Vinci Code:
    • Sophie puts a GPS tracker on a bar of soap from the Louvre and throws it out the window onto a passing truck. The bathrooms in that part of the Louvre have no windows and don't use bar soap.
    • "Madonna of the Rocks" hangs in the Grand Gallery, not the Salle des Etats. The painting directly across from the "Mona Lisa" is Caliari's "The Wedding Feast at Cana". This painting is an enormous 32 feet (9.9 meters) wide. Even if "Virgin of the Rocks" did hang opposite the "Mona Lisa", it's 6 feet 6 inches (1.99 meters) tall, too tall for Sophie to see over. The painting's ornate wooden frame is also too heavy for an average person to lift unassisted.
  • Dead Poets Society: Keating misquotes Walt Whitman's 1892 "Song of Myself". The word "rooftops" should have been "roofs".
  • Equilibrium: In an early scene, the Grammaton Clerics capture and destroy a stash of contraband art, including the Mona Lisa. Their scanners even assure them it's the original Mona Lisa—but it's still much larger than its Real Life counterpart.
  • Ever After: Leonardo da Vinci is shown pulling the Mona Lisa out of a tube and unrolling it so that onlookers can admire it. The Mona Lisa was painted on wood panel.
  • Hustle & Flow: Clyde buys batteries for the Shure studio microphones that do not use batteries. Studio microphones rarely use batteries.
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (1999): The Monet stolen by TC is credited as being the first painting in the Impressionist school - Monet's "Impression: Sunrise" of 1872. The painting shown in the movie is Monet's 1906 "San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight".
  • The Monuments Men: Stokes gives a lecture to Roosevelt and identifies a work by "Da Vinci", rather than Leonardo. This is a classic post-The Da Vinci Code mistake that no art historian — and certainly none living in the 1940s — would have made. The name of the artist was Leonardo and he was born in the town of Vinci — Leonardo Da Vinci means "Leonardo, of Vinci".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bones: In "Death in the Saddle", Dr Brennan says that a birimbao is a "small flute". A birimbao is a stringed percussion instrument.
  • Charmed (1998): In "Sight Unseen", when one is developing a photo, it's first put into a developer chemical, which shows the picture up, then a stop, which stops it from developing anymore, then a fix which "sets" the photo. But in the basement, Prue puts the exposed photo into a tray with chemicals in it, where it starts to develop, then into a second tray where it develops fully.
  • Doctor Who: In "City of Death", the Mona Lisas (plural) are, as usual, much too big.
  • El internado Hieronymus Bosch' triptych Adoration of the Magi (a.k.a. The Epiphany) is shown to be painted on canvas rather than on wooden panel like it actually is.The three pieces are also shown to be a different shape and size than in real life as well as not having grisaille paintings on the other side the original triptych has.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Most Toys", Kivas Fajo, a collector of ancient rarities, displays the Mona Lisa in his treasure trove that is larger than the Mona Lisa actually is.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Purple Testament", Rod Serling says in his opening narration that he is quoting Shakespeare's play Richard III. His quotation is actually from Richard II, also written by William Shakespeare.

  • The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Mona Lisa appears far larger than it actually is.

    Video Games 
  • The Sims: The process of becoming a living legend artist includes wood whittling, house painting, comic book penciling, becoming a wedding photographer, and even becoming a museum guard. Those skills have little to nothing to do with what it takes to become a world-renowned artist.


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