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Concealing Canvas

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"That's the sort of decoration that screams 'There's a safe behind me.'"
Lt. Wilcox, The Flying Cloud

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 easiest object to hide a safe behind; on the other hand, behind 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 or 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. Compare Secret Compartment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The JOJOLands, during the team's heist for the diamond, Dragona believes it's hidden behind something. Usagi quickly cuts up a nearby painting only to find nothing. They later find the safe hidden behind a bookcase.
  • During the "Seven Mysteries of Fudo High" case in The Kindaichi Case Files, the unknown seventh mystery (according to legend, whoever discovers it will be cursed) is revealed to be an actual corpse buried in the wall of an old school building, obscured by an otherwise-hideous poster. This ties into the old school building's Dark Secret (it used to be a lab for a shady pharmaceutical company before donating it to the school).

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 5 episode 22, Careless S. has a bunch of weapons hidden around the school after Headmaster Tele tells him not to use them on school premises. One of them, a bomb, is hidden in a small space tucked behind a picture of the Headmaster.
  • Lamput: In "Boss'stache", the Boss keeps the recipe for his mustache-growing formula in a safe hidden behind a painting in his office at the lab.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Caldwel strip depicts two men on a "Far Side" Island with a portrait hanging on the palm tree. The second man accuses the first of keeping all the coconuts in a hidden safe.

    Fan Works 
  • In Betrothed Ted has one in his law office which is charmed so only people on an "approved" list can open it.
  • In Harry Potter - Three to Backstep Potter Retreat has a safe with a "door" painting which can only be opened by pressing the Head of House ring into an indentation at the bottom of the frame.
  • In Harry Potter and the Bonds of Time Amelia has a safe behind a portrait of her late brother Edgar.
  • In An Instant Family Harry's parents' house in Godric's Hollow has one.
  • In Oh Hell No Amelia has a safe which is invisible unless you "open" the painting in front of it as if it were a door.
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines reveals that Giovanni has a safe in his office, hidden behind a portrait of himself and his Persian. Inside he stashes many items that might not see the light of day in a long time, but are too valuable to destroy.
  • Robb Returns: Behind a tapestry in Ned's own solar, right under his nose, there is a hidden door that leads to a whole room of secrets, including the Fist of Winter and the relic that triggers the Call.
  • In The Shock of it All Amelia has a safe behind a painting of a baby badger.
  • In The Vanishing Cabinet of Time Dumbledore keeps his old wand in a safe behind a portrait of the previous Headmaster.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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.
  • In Turning Red, the scroll that tells the tale of Sun Yee and the Red Panda Blessing is kept in a secret compartment in the temple, concealed behind a painting of Sun Yee.
  • Wallace & Gromit had this in The Wrong Trousers. Wallace hides his piggy bank in a safe behind a picture of a piggy bank.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alternate-Biff Tannen's office in Back to the Future Part II has a safe (containing the future sports almanac Biff used to get rich in that timeline) hidden behind his self-portrait.
  • In The Batman (2022), Selina Kyle breaks into a high-tech version; she pushes a button behind the frame, causing the painting (presumably fake) to slide down revealing a safe, which then slides forward out of the wall.
  • The Climax: Hidden behind a painting in his office, Dr. Hohner has a safe that contains his souvenirs of all of Marcellina's performances.
  • In The Cobbler, one of the baddies has a safe behind his bathroom mirror where he stores precious watches.
  • The Flash. In the alternate timeline, a Retired Badass Bruce Wayne has refused to help Prime Barry. When Barry reminds Bruce of his parents, he goes to touch a framed photo of them on the wall...then slides it aside to reveal a retinal scanner that opens the Bookcase Passage concealing his Batsuits.
  • Hudson Hawk. The auction house Eddie and Tommy break into hides its safe behind a large painting. The safe holds the "Sforza", the horse statuette that they're there to steal.
  • James Bond:
  • 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.
  • The Pink Panther has a double-ended safe behind two paintings.
  • In Sherlock Holmes (2009), Sherlock quickly checks the safe behind his painting is still locked after waking up to find Irene Adler in the room.
  • 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.
  • There's a safe behind a painting of Hitler in the movie Valkyrie.
  • Game Night. In one scene that takes place in a Fight Club setting in a basement, there is a safe containing a large amount of money hidden behind a sliding painting.

  • 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.
  • The Berenstain Bears Big Chapter Books: In The Berenstain Bears in the Freaky Funhouse, Captain Billy has a safe in his office, kept hidden behind a poster of Coco the Clown.
  • The Executioner: In "Terminal Velocity", Mack Bolan breaks into a safe hidden in the office of a KGB honcho, but thanks to a continuity error it changes from a picture of Lenin to one of Brezhnev, then back again.
  • In Experimental Film, the mentally disabled child Hyatt Whitcomb used to sleep in a crib with his nanny in a bed next to him so he couldn't wander off, but he kicked loose a panel in the wall next to his crib, revealing a ladder-way built to make it easier to clean the flue. He tacked up some sketches over the opening so he could use it to sneak out at night. His mother never found out until after his disappearance.
  • In The Flying Cloud, while exploring an abandoned base of the Fat Man's group, Wilcox and Mackiernan find a movie poster in the main office that they instantly identify as this trope. It was also booby-trapped with a massive concrete deadfall, but they had already encountered so many traps in that base that this one was no surprise.
  • In typical Frederick Forsyth fashion, The Fourth Protocol meticulously details the locating and destruction of a safe hidden behind a painting.
  • 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.
  • In The Secret Life of Kitty Granger, Nazi sympathizer Lowell has a safe full of secret papers hidden behind a painting in his office.
  • Solar Pons: In "The Adventure of the Spurious Tamerlane", Pons and Parker are searching a blackmailer's apartment. Having found a safe hidden behind a paining, Pons dismisses it as too obvious and keeps looking. He soon discovers that the two volume leather bound Old and New Testament on the bookshelf are actually hollow fakes where he stores his blackmail material.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An improvised version in Agent Carter. When Peggy Carter has to hide a MacGuffin in her rented apartment, she knocks a hole in the wall, takes out a couple of bricks so she can place the device in the wall-space, then hangs a picture over the damage.
  • 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.
  • Batman (1966)
    • In the episode "The Duo is Slumming", the plans for an airplane are in a wall safe concealed by a painting.
    • In the episodes "That Darn Catwoman" and "Flop Goes The Joker", stately Wayne Manor has a wall safe hidden behind a painting.
  • The Bionic Woman episode "Black Magic". A dying man hides his will in a wall safe concealed behind a painting.
  • In Brødrene Dal and the Mystery of Karl XII's Spats, the brothers have a painting of a safe on the wall that conceals a real safe behind it.
  • 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.
  • Canada's Worst Handyman: One challenge in Season 3 involves installing a sunken wall safe. In introducing this challenge, Andrew mentions that a properly-installed wall safe could be concealed behind a painting, which he demonstrates using a picture of… a sunken wall safe.
  • 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.
  • Dead Man's Gun: No safe, but in "The Highwayman", Robert Cosgrove has a hole in his bedroom wall where he conceals the eponymous gun and his ill-gotten gains that is hidden behind a painting.
  • 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 season 3 of Heroes, a stolen formula is hidden behind the Mona Lisa.
  • In the Honey West episode "The Owl and the Eye," a thief hides the Ming Owl behind a portrait of his mother.
  • 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 multi-million quid cost.
  • Leverage:
    • Hardison has hidden large quantities of cash inside the frame of his painting of Harlan Leverage III (AKA Old Nate).
    • In "The Fairy Godparents Job," the mark has a safe hidden behind a painting in his swanky apartment.
  • Lost: Ben Linus keeps all his information on Charles Widmore in a wall safe behind a painting.
  • The original Mission: Impossible.
    • Invoked in "The Frame": 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.
    • "Imitation". The target of the team has a safe concealed behind a painting in her office. Barney uses an electronic device to read the safe's combination while she's opening it.
  • 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.
  • Parodied on Monty Python's Flying Circus in the episode "Dennis Moore" where a safe is hidden behind... a painting of a safe.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "In the Altogether", the safe in Abigail's apartment is hidden behind a decorative panel.
  • The Professionals. In "Rogue", the eponymous Rogue Agent realises he has an intruder in his apartment. He looks behind a wall painting for a pistol he has taped to the frame, only to find it missing. So he dives behind a table, grabs a Beretta .32 taped underneath it and challenges the intruder to come out with his hands up.
    "I'll give you a tip. When you find a gun easily, assume you're supposed to look for another one."
  • In Resident Alien, Abigail Hodges is arrested for the murder of her husband but is later released pending trial. She holds a yard sale and Sheriff Mike Thompson takes a call from a man who tells him to shut it down, that it's a "murder sale." Thompson dismisses the man for wasting police time, as Abigail is well within her rights to hold a sale. He later offers to buy a set of mystery novels that Sam Hodges once tried to give him, only for her to tell him that if Sam wanted him to have them, he should. He begins to suspect based on her demeanor that he may have arrested the wrong suspect, something that Deputy Liv Baker agrees with. He starts reading the novels and discovers that the detective in them would hide clues behind the backings of paintings. Based on this, he and Deputy Liv examine Sam Hodges's office and discover a note in the backing of one of the paintings with a list of names headed "Galvan/Powell," which viewers already know was the company behind Sam Hodges's death.
  • Sherlock Holmes. At the start of "A Scandal in Bohemia", the burglars sent by the King of Bohemia to find the compromising photograph slice open a painting of Irene Adler (to her shock) to see if it's hidden behind the canvas. It's not, so all they do is commit vandalism.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation. Justified in "The Most Toys". The Villain of the Week Kivas Fajo is a collector of rare objects (including Data, whom he kidnaps). One of these objects is a rare disrupter pistol; as he's not going to keep a weapon in the same room as Data he stores it in a safe, which naturally is hidden behind another object in his collection.
  • In the UFO (1970) 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.
  • Young Sheldon: In "An Ankle Monitor and a Big Plastic Crap House", Connie had money hidden inside the Cooper's home, hidden behind a picture in the dining room wall.

  • Adventures in Odyssey used this trope, and the stock joke: A safe was hidden behind a picture of a safe.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Aftermath}, Scenario Pack 1: Into the Ruins. In the ruins of the Gatlin Center, the Director's office has a wall safe hidden behind a picture. The safe holds a variety of papers regarding the Center's operations, $5,000 in $10 bills, a packet of love letters and a vial of deadly poison.
  • 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.
    • The Vanishing Conjurer and The Statue of the Sorcerer. At the El Profondo estate, Worlsman's apartments include a study. One important feature of the study is a portrait of Worlsman himself. If the portrait is moved it pulls away from the wall on hinges and reveals a concealed safe.
    • Supplement The Horrible Secret of Monhegan Island. One of the bedrooms of the Martinson home has a landscape painting on the wall. If the painting is removed, a door to a secret compartment in the wall is revealed. In the compartment is an unnamed Cthulhu Mythos Tome of Eldritch Lore.
    • Adventurer magazine #5, adventure "A Wee Dram of Danger". In the Kilbride house, a portrait of James Kilbride conceals the family wall safe. Inside the safe is a magical artifact that the Player Party needs to defeat the villain of the adventure without killing an innocent victim.
  • Champions. Space Gamer Fantasy Gamer magazine #78 scenario "The Jewel Thief". The title NPC scales the outside of a skyscraper and enters through a window. Once inside the room he goes to a painting on the wall, pulls it back and reveals a safe hidden behind it. He tries to open the safe and steal the jewels inside, hopefully to be stopped by the superhero Player Character.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Dragon magazine #42, adventure "The Mansion of Mad Professor Ludlow". One room in the Mansion has a picture of Mad Professor Ludlow when he was a baby, being held by his mother. Behind the picture is a wall safe containing some valuable treasure, including the deed to the mansion.
    • Dungeon magazine #8 adventure "For A Lady's Honor". Hastur Brunt's bedroom has a wall safe concealed behind a painting worth 1,000 gold pieces. The safe is trapped with a gas that will put everyone in the room to sleep.
    • The 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.
  • SPI's Dragon Quest supplement The Enchanted Wood. On the 4th floor of the Ruined Tower in room T-12 there's a painting of a woman and a man over the fireplace mantle. Behind the painting is a safe with several dangerous traps connected to it. Inside the safe is treasure, including coins, jewelry and several magical items.

    Video Games 
  • 2027: Your safehouse in Paris has one.
  • 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.
  • In Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, there is a lever behind a painting in one of the bathrooms that opens a secret door.
  • 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.
  • Batman: Arkham City: Catwoman's introduction has her spotting several Mooks finding Two-Face's loot behind a painting.
  • 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 opening and closing those paintings, presumably to check for bugs some "inventive" spy always may leave behind.
  • In Dark Fall: Light's Out, the button to open a hidden drawer is hidden behind the corner of a painting in the head lighthouse-keeper's room.
  • 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).
  • As in Human Revolution, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided also features a number of safes and item stashes hidden behind paintings, decorations, and TVs. Most are revealed either by computer command or hidden switch, though in at least one case, a hidden alcove can be found simply by switching off the TV screen in front of it... or even more simply by merely looking in the space behind the TV. In Adam Jensen's case, his hidden stash is now a set of three equipment lockers that function as extra inventory space; these are concealed behind a decorative wood panel that slides upward on computer command.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: There is a secret door hidden behind a tapestry in Venim Manor. You'll need to rescue someone from this hidden room to advance in the House Redoran and Redoran Hortator questlines.
  • In Kathy Rain, there is a safe behind the painting in Isaac's room at the church.
  • Dr. Fred's safe in Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle is hidden behind a portrait of him, with hair.
  • Medal of Honor: Frontline: In the manor level, there is a map hidden behind a painting and documents in a cuckoo clock that you need to find. The problem being, there are dozens of paintings and clocks throughout the manor, only one of which has what you're looking for.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 1: The final area has Lan discovering a hidden passage behind a portrait of Wily.
  • 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.
  • PAYDAY 2:
    • In the Big Bank heist, there's always a safe hidden behind a painting in the bank manager's office. It sometimes holds a keycard necessary to open a security door, though there's usually just a partially-eaten sandwich inside.
    • The Golden Grin Casino heist features a safe behind a painting in the manager's office, which must be opened to find one of three parts of a code lock. The painting itself can be taken as loot.
  • In Penumbra: Black Plague, an Air-Vent Passageway is hidden behind an odd painting.
  • Pokémon Red and Blue: The switch to open a secret door lies behind a poster in the Celadon Game Corner.
  • 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.
  • The Crabb & Sons company in Safecracker lampshade and joke about this trope in a pamphlet in-game. Given that what they produce is safes, barely any of the safes at their corporate headquarters are hidden.
    "No longer is it the case of looking behind the right painting. Now the crack thief will be down on his hands and knees, touching and prodding at everything he sees in hopes of getting lucky."
    • The 2006 successor plays with this, with a painting that does hide a safe, except there are other paintings connected by wires that have to be rearranged in the right order before the one with the safe will open.
  • Scratches has a safe hidden behind a painting in the master bedroom.
  • The Sexy Brutale has a safe hidden behind a painting. The master lockpicker snarkily remarks that it's a new and original idea.
  • In Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, not only are safes hidden behind paintings, but the combinations are hidden in the paintings.
  • One of the first levels of the first Splinter Cell featured this.
  • In Thimbleweed Park, Ransome's wall safe in his trailer is hidden behind a clown poster. Likewise, Chuck's safe in his room is hidden behind a 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "Little Frogtown", Hop Pop finds a safe hidden behind Sal's portrait in the restaurant.
  • 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.
  • Futurama: "Bender's Big Score" has the safe behind a painting of the Professor opening the painting to find the safe.
  • In the Huntik: Secrets & Seekers episode "An Ally From The Organization", the Professor is revealed to have been suspicious of his Number Two Rassimov and secretly kept files about Rassimov’s weaknesses in a locked safe behind a painting in his office.
  • Rick and Morty: In "The Rickchurian Mortydate", the opening scene shows that there is a hidden door behind the painting of Lincoln at the White House, leading down to a tunnel system.
  • An episode of The Simpsons had this in Burns' mansion. Bart, searches for it, only to find a Beefeater guard as well.
  • Painter Smurf hides a stash of smurfberry candy inside his own painting in The Smurfs (1981) episode "Smurfette's Sweet Tooth".
  • Steven Universe: In "Onion Friend", Onion takes Steven to a room behind his poster, only accessible through a long air vent.


Video Example(s):


Mural Door

The Belcher kids discover a hidden door on a painted wall to look like a path.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ConcealingCanvas

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