Seventeenth-century art theorists and critics placed history painting at the top of the hierarchy of subject matter because it featured the human figure in action. Histories—subjects taken from the Bible, mythology, or other literary sources—were esteemed because they provided artists with an opportunity to display their powers of invention and imagination. Further, the noble actions and heroic deeds modeled virtuous behavior for the viewer. Often the repertory of subjects was predicated on artistic conventions and tradition and featured stories that could be interpreted in a moralizing, valorizing, or admonitory light.
Israelites Crossing the Red SeaIsraelites Crossing the Red Sea, 1594
Meeting of Jacob and EsauMeeting of Jacob and Esau, 1594
Saints Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Sacrifice at Lystra)Saints Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Sacrifice at Lystra), 1637
Annunciation of the Death of the VirginAnnunciation of the Death of the Virgin, 1660s