This study assessed how pictorially naive nonhuman primates understand pictures. Fifty-five baboons with no prior exposure to pictures were trained to grasp a slice of banana presented against a pebble in a two alternative forced choice task. Post-training testing involved three stimulus pairs: (1) real banana slice vs. its picture, (2) the banana picture vs. a real pebble and (3) banana picture vs. a pebble picture which were presented twice. Preliminary data were also collected on naive gorillas (n = 4) and chimpanzees (n = 7) using the same procedure. Baboons revealed a preference for the food picture in (2) and (3) and often ate this stimulus, but the food item and its picture were accurately discriminated in (1). These results suggest that baboons mistook the pictorial stimulus and its referent, but processed the banana pictures as poor exemplars of the real banana category. Among apes, only gorillas ate the banana pictures, suggesting that picture-object confusion may also occur in this species. Findings are discussed as pertaining to the general issue of representational abilities in nonhuman primates, and its evolution. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.