History Painting

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.    

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