“The Paintings in the Parlor of the Bates Motel”

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At Americana, Katrina Powers writes about the paintings in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). “In the original 1960 trailer for Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock notifies us that the parlor of the Bates Motel was Norman Bates’ (Anthony Perkins) “favorite spot,” then suggests that we visit the parlor with him. Once there, he points to a painting on the wall and says “This picture has great significance, because…” before lowering his eyes and changing the subject, leaving his audience to wonder what, if any, the great significance may be. The image is a copy of the 1731 painting Susanna and the Elders by Willem van Mieris (see Figure 1), and the placement of the object itself is significant to the narrative of Psycho since it covers the hole through which Norman spies on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). At the same time, the story of Susanna and its depictions in art have intertextual ramifications that extend in many directions, connecting this painting, and the other paintings in the parlor, with the characters and events in the film.”

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