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Stand-In Portrait

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Don't call the portraits creepy.

"Who puts a picture frame on a window?!"
Candace, Phineas and Ferb, "Fireside Girl Jamboree"

When you don't have time to cut out the eyes in a painting for a Portrait Painting Peephole, the next best thing to do is strike a pose and imitate a painting or picture so as to spy on your friends.

When you get right down to it, this is a trope that really requires only two dimensions in order to work, as anyone with a functioning brain could probably determine the difference between a highly realistic painting, and someone sitting in a room behind the wall because of depth perception.

See also Nobody Here but Us Statues, Mirror Routine and Wallpaper Camouflage.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the One Piece "Thriller Bark" story arc, a number of paintings on the walls of the castle are in fact zombies literally stitched into their frames, attacking the heroes when they get into range.
  • Yoh does this in Crying Freeman. In this case, he was actually standing in for a painting of himself, and it was on an easel, not a wall, so he just switched in an empty frame and stood behind it with the lights off. He only does it to fool police watching from outside, and once an actual person entered the room, she quickly noticed something was off and turned the lights on.

  • There's an inversion in a couple of Rene Magritte paintings, where the painting within a painting depicts a scene precisely matching what's behind it (right down to the positions of clouds, which shouldn't match because they move). But hey... it's really just one painting, get it?
  • A recent minor trend in artwork subverts this; it turns out that if you apply makeup carefully to a person and make them sit very still, it's actually difficult to tell they aren't a painting if your angle on the person isn't changing.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Season 7 episode 38 of Happy Heroes, Sweet S. (a Lethal Chef) makes food and wants the other Supermen to try it. She looks around and sees a painting of the others in a painting on the wall - turns out those are the actual Supermen, trying to avoid eating the terrible food.

    Comic Books 
  • One Josie and the Pussycats story had this. The Pussycats visit an art museum. they take a moment to comment on a portrait of what Melody calls "an ugly guy". After they leave, it is revealed that the "portrait" is actually a real man standing behind an empty frame, who is unamused.
  • Suske en Wiske: In "De Kleppende Klipper", Jerom does this in an attempt to evade the police. A police officer who notices the "portrait" uses it as an opportunity to get a good idea of what Jerom looks like, but he makes a mistake concerning Jerom's height, which Jerom immediately corrects, thus blowing his cover.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • In one episode of Nu, Pogodi!, Hare hides from Wolf in an empty TV case in a room full of functioning TVs all broadcasting a hare singer. Wolf eventually finds the real Hare by turning off the TVs one by one.

    Films — Animation 
  • Steven Universe: The Movie: After Amethyst, who's been reduced to a Blank Slate by an Identity Amnesia-inducing weapon, goes missing, Steven tracks her down inside Vidalia's garage, shapeshifted to mimic an abstract portrait of herself.
  • In WALL•E, the captain lures AUTO out by standing in front of a hologram of the plant, pretending that he has it. Then, he hides from AUTO (momentarily) by standing in front of his own portrait. This is slightly more realistic than most, since AUTO only has one camera, and so has no depth perception.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In From Russia with Love some of the scenes featuring Rosa Klebb had to be reshot after the set was struck. The solution was to blow up a still frame from the existing footage and film the reshoot with Lotte Lenya standing in front of her own image.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a Thuggee in the shadows pretends to be part of the mural in Indy's room before attacking him.
  • In Like Flint: Derek Flint dresses up as a Z.O.W.I.E. officer and stands in front of a recruiting poster before infiltrating a Top Secret Z.O.W.I.E. complex.
  • An accidental version (or is it?) in Jurassic Park III. The characters are looking through the ruins of Jurassic Park's Mad Scientist Laboratory. Amanda Kirby walks along a row of murky tanks holding the remains of failed experiments and even a raptor...which looks directly at her and then jumps out from behind the tank to try and bite her head off.
  • Project Moonbase. The female US President appears on a Video Phone which is clearly just the actress filmed through a hole in the wall.
  • Envy stands in front of her own poster at the coffee bar in Scott Pilgrim.
  • Done by Lou Landers in Superhero Movie.
  • The Three Stooges:
    • Justified in a 3D medium as the stooges are imbeciles, like in the short "The Hot Scots".
    • Occasionally subverted in that we're left to assume the actual painting has come to life. The ghostly Shemp causing a portrait of a cowboy to shoot in "Heavenly Daze"; Curly being left to shake a sculpture's hand in "You Nazty Spy"; and a portrait of Napoleon catching the stooges' turkey and running away in "I'll Never Heil Again."
  • A classic example occurs in Young Frankenstein when Igor pretends to be one of the heads in the lab in order to surprise Frankenstein and Inga.
  • In Wild Wild West, a group of Loveless' mooks hide in a study room's numerous portraits to ambush Jim West. He notices them in time and quickly shoots all of them, including one who was hiding on the ceiling.

  • Variation in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun novels: Severian is surprised to discover that what appears to be a painting in a gallery is in fact a cleverly disguised room behind a picture frame.
  • In the children's book Flat Stanley, Stanley foils an art museum robbery by pretending to be a painting. Of course it's easier for him, what with being flat and all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Get Smart, Agent 13, who is hiding in a picture, complains that he cannot look around that much. This is especially goes for leaning out for a look, as he complains "I'm not a pop-out painting!"
  • In an episode of The IT Crowd, Moss and Roy do this, not to a hide a person behind a picture frame, but to hide a fire behind a monitor frame.
    "Nice screen saver!"
  • When The Monkees played a creepy house, the owner [a vampire] did this.
  • Spoofed in the Scrubs episode "My Jiggly Ball" when Kelso tries to hide as a himself in a mural. The trick works on JD, but Dr Cox isn't fooled. Kelso refuses to break cover after Cox points out he is three-dimensional, only when he grabs him.
    Cox: Bob... I can see you. Oh for God's sake, you're three dimensional! [...] Bob, I'm physically touching your arm now. Oh come on, I know you're here.
    Kelso: [acts like he just noticed Cox] ...Oh hi Perry, what can I do for you?
  • Played for Laughs in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. In the opening to an episode, Zack Cody and Esteban accidentally break a painting while throwing a ball in the hallway. In a ridiculous attempt to hide it, Esteban holds the broken frame together and the three pose as the painting. Mr. Moseby walks past them as if he didn't see anything.
    Cody: Do you think he noticed?
    Mr. Moseby: [offscreen] He noticed.
    Cody: It wasn't us! We were...framed!
  • Wizards of Waverly Place episode 21, where the Mona Lisa made to come alive does this.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fozzie Bear and Avery Schreiber did a sketch based on this in one episode of The Muppet Show. Schreiber, playing a museum curator, sits next to what looks like a portrait of Fozzie to eat his lunch, but while he isn't looking, Fozzie reaches out of the frame and steals his apple and then his sandwich. Thinking he's got away with it, Fozzie proceeds to eat the sandwich until Schreiber appears in the frame next to him and begins throttling him - then they notice Rowlf walk up with his lunch and repeat the trick on him together.

    Video Games 
  • The Curse of Monkey Island has a puzzle based on this trope: In order to convince a local innkeeper that he's a member of the Goodsoup family, Guybrush has to take a painting of one of the Goodsoups, cut out the face, paste the remains of the painting on a door with a porthole, and peek his head in through the other side of the porthole as the innkeeper arrives to admire his paintings. Lampshaded subtly in that the innkeeper says he feels as if the painting's eyes are following him, à la Mona Lisa.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Salvatore has cut out the faces in all of his paintings so he can insert his own into them. He makes no attempt to disguise himself as anything though. It's just part of his eccentric storytelling style.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • The opening theme features Phineas painting a mustache on Candace's portrait, but it turns out to be Candace herself.
    • The current page quote comes from the episode "Fireside Girls Jamboree", as Candace meets the founder of the Fireside Girls Organization, Eliza M. Feyersied.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Double, Double Boy in Trouble", Bart comments on a poster of Joe Montana, but it turns out to be Joe Montana standing in a hole in the wall.
    • In "Monty Can't Buy Me Love", Lisa watches DVD Commentary for The Postman, with Kevin Costner narrating using a split-screen. It turns out he's actually inside the television, and steps out to talk to her.
  • Kim Possible: In the episode "Graduation", Ron comments on an ugly portrait in Killigan's castle, only to find out the portrait really is Killigan. Currently the page image.
  • Daffy Duck/Porky Pig short Daffy Doodles: Daffy is the "Mustache Fiend", who goes around drawing mustaches on pictures. Porky Pig is a cop who tries to catch him by holding up a picture frame in front of his face and pretending to be a picture.
    • Combined with "Wanted!" Poster for the introduction of the outlaw in a parody in which Daffy was Robin Hood.
  • In the Bugs Bunny short The Hair-Raising Hare, the orange monster (now known as Gossamer) does the Portrait Painting Peephole bit, but Bugs catches on and gives him a poke in the eye. Then Bugs stands in for a portrait, which gives the monster a chance to get even... only Bugs beats him to the punch and pokes him again.
  • Cellbound does a variant of this — instead of a portrait, the protagonist imitates a TV broadcast, which makes up most of the gags in the short.
  • A baby griffin who has been stealing things around the castle does this in an episode of Sofia the First by standing in front of a small portrait for a royal while wrapped in a red cloth and wearing a tiara. Neither James nor Amber notice, despite both claiming that nothing gets past them.
  • Inspector Gadget: Chief Quimby and Brain do this a lot.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Pinkie Pride", Rainbow Dash is shortly seen in front of a banner for her birthday; then she moves, revealing the picture behind her isn't so true to life.
  • Happens every now and then on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, most notably with Redbeard the pirate.
  • Used as the plot of an episode of Catscratch: the cats consult a portrait of their deceased owner, who demands that they treat their butler Hovis with more respect. When they talk to her again after bending over backwards to keep Hovis pleased, it turns out she was him in disguise.
  • El Fundador in ˇMucha Lucha! has this as his wrestling theme. He is first encountered standing absolutely still in a hall of records, indistinguishable from the other artifacts of the school's history. He then reveals himself as the real deal, then starts moving around. As it seems, the picture frame itself is part of his luchador outfit, and he wears it wherever he goes.
  • BoJack Horseman: In the episode "Surprise!", when the guests of Mr. Peanutbutter's surprise party have to avoid Mr. Peanutbutter seeing them, Captain Peanutbutter and his wife hide behind picture frames. This becomes awkward when Mr. Peanutbutter picks up the picture frames (with Captain and his wife standing up to keep their heads in the frames) to talk about how Captain secretly confided in him that he feels trapped in a loveless marriage.

    Real Life 
  • In an inversion, the Soviet Union edited the disgraced Leon Trotsky out of old propaganda films by back-projecting and re-photographing the scenes where he appeared with a non-lookalike actor standing in front of his image to block it out.


Eliza M. Feyersied

Who puts a picture frame on a window?

How well does it match the trope?

4.11 (9 votes)

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Main / StandInPortrait

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