In a show like The White Lotus, all the clues you need are hiding in plain sight... you may need an art history degree to fully comprehend them, though. Just like in Season 1, the second season of the lush vacation mystery is packed with gorgeous paintings, sculptures, and more pieces of art, all of which are much more than mere decoration. If you’re still trying to piece together all the mysteries of The White Lotus Season 2, these art clues just might provide some insight.
Spoiler alert: This post discusses plot details from the first five episodes of The White Lotus Season 2. Art played a big part in the Hawaiian-set season of the series, but it’s even more in the forefront now that the setting is Sicily. Majestic Renaissance paintings cover the walls of the White Lotus resort, and each of them carries a special meaning that very clearly seem to relate to how the vacationers are interacting around them. But the hidden meanings aren’t just in the paintings — telling sculptures, operas, and even tattoos communicate so much more about what’s going on in Season 2 than just the dialogue. Whenever the camera lingers on a specific artwork, that should be your cue to pay close attention, because more likely than not, it’s hiding an important clue.
So let’s take a leisurely stroll through The White Lotus’s Season 2 art gallery and see if we can piece together how it’s all going to end.
1. Testa di Moro
It’s really hard to miss the first major piece of art introduced in Season 2. As Harper and Ethan first enter their room with Daphne and Cameron, they notice a large ceramic head. Hotel staffer Rocco explains it is a Testa di Moro, a type of traditional Sicilian vase depicting the severed head of an unfaithful man. As the legend goes, a Moorish man declared his love for a beautiful girl while visiting Palermo, but when he revealed he would be traveling back home to a wife and children, she cut off his head and stuck it in her garden so that he could never leave her.
Tellingly, Cameron and Daphne have very different interpretations of what message this sculpture is sending. “If you come into my house, don’t f*ck my wife,” Cameron says, but Daphne quickly corrects him: “It’s a warning to husbands, babe. Screw around and you’ll end up buried in the garden.”
The theme of cheating husbands is obviously central to Harper, Ethan, Cameron, and Daphne’s stories. Could the Testa di Moro be a hint that one of these husbands won’t survive the trip?
2. Saint Lucy
While some of the paintings require a fair bit of interpretation, the portrait of Saint Lucy in Bert’s room has a big clue in its very title. That’s because St. Lucy was also known as St. Lucia, which should be a very familiar name for White Lotus fans. But it goes deeper than just predicting fun-loving sex worker Lucia would be involved in Bert, Dom, and Albie’s family drama. St. Lucy is famously depicted without her eyes, as conflicting stories of her veneration claim either pagan guards gouged them out when she refused to worship their emperor, or she gouged them out herself to deter a relentless suitor who always complimented her eyes.
That second story seems more in line with Lucia, especially after the naive Albie catches feelings for her. Could the allusion to St. Lucy mean that Lucia will harm herself in some way to keep her suitors away from her? Or perhaps, she’ll just fake her death to escape all her man troubles.
3. Saint Agatha
Bert’s room isn’t the only one with a very significant saint painting. In Dom’s room, it’s a painting of Saint Agatha, who is actually linked to St. Lucy. It was St. Agatha who came to Lucy in a vision encouraging her to remain true to her virtues, which could be a funhouse-mirror version of the relationship Mia and Lucia have with one another. To drive the point home that Mia is potentially connected to Agatha, Mia is shown wearing a pearl necklace similar to Agatha’s in the painting.
Agatha’s story is somewhat similar to Lucy’s. A powerful Roman leader constantly proposed to her, but when she kept refusing, he resorted to horrific torture to try to make her say yes. Most notably, he tore off her breasts with tongs, but she still would not relent.
On the surface, this seems to oppose Mia’s increasingly nonchalant attitude toward sex, but her connection to Agatha may be foretelling a disaster ahead. And the fact that the painting is in Dom’s room is pretty troubling, considering his history of sexual impropriety.
4. The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian
Albie’s room has another painting of a saint, and this one is much more explicit in its violence. The Matyrdom of St. Sebastian appears behind Albie’s head after he first hooks up with Lucia. The painting depicts St. Sebastian riddled with arrows after he was sentenced to death by archers when he was found out to be a Christian. However, Sebastian didn’t die — he miraculously survived the arrows.
The implication seems to be that someone will face unimaginable hardship but will somehow survive it. It sure looks like that person will be Albie, since the painting is in his room and has been most associated with him so far.
5. The Rape of Lucretia
Yet another tragic tale, Harper and Ethan’s room features The Rape of Lucretia, a depiction of an ancient Roman woman who was assaulted by the prince in spite of her steadfast devotion to her husband. Lucretia took her own life afterward, and many historians pinpoint that act as what spurred on the Roman revolution.
This story of treachery, self-sacrifice, and revolution could have any number of implications with respect to Harper and Ethan’s story. Will one of them finally go too far, causing the other to self-destruct? And if so, maybe the dissolution of their relationship could end up being a good thing.
6. Madama Butterfly
The opera Quentin takes Tanya to also carries a lot of significance for Tanya’s arc in Season 2. Madama Butterfly tells the story of a Japanese girl who marries a U.S. soldier stationed in Nagasaki in 1904. The girl, who goes by Butterfly, is overjoyed with the match and is fully devoted to her husband, Pinkerton. But Pinkerton leaves her after the wedding, returning to America to remarry there without Butterfly’s knowledge. When Pinkerton finally returns to her, it’s only to collect their child so his new wife can raise him. Distraught, Butterfly completes seppuku to end her life.
The tragic tale clearly echoes Tanya’s own distance from Greg, who left her alone in Sicily seemingly shortly after they got married. Hopefully Tanya’s fate isn’t as dire as Bufferfly’s.
7. Jack’s Tattoo
Now here’s piece of art that barely needs any interpretation. When Quentin’s nephew Jack was introduced, fans quickly noticed the DCLXVI tattoo on his chest. A cursory knowledge of Roman numerals (or a quick Google search) reveals that stands for “666,” the devil’s number. The implication here is obvious: Jack is up to no good.
8. The Opening Credits
Just like last season, Season 2’s opening credits are riddled with like references, hints, and jokes about each character. Some are obvious, like Theo James’ name popping up next to a genitalia-exposed statue, while other may take a bit more work to decipher. Thankfully the theme song is a banger, so it’s actually a treat to rewatch the intro and hunt for more clues.
The White Lotus continues with new episodes Sunday nights on HBO and HBO Max.