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Historical Painting

History painting is a genre in painting defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style. history paintings usually depict a moment in a narrative story, rather than a specific and static subject, as in a portrait. the term is derived from the wider senses of the word historia in latin and italian, and essentially means "story painting." in modern english, historical painting is sometimes used to describe the painting of scenes from history in its narrower sense (excluding religious, mythological and allegorical subjects, which are included in the broader term history painting), especially for 19th-century art. history paintings almost always contain a number of figures, often a large number. the genre includes depictions of moments in religious narratives, above all the life of christ, as well as narrative scenes from mythology, and also allegorical scenes. these groups were for long the most frequently painted; works such as michelangelo's sistine chapel ceiling are therefore history paintings, as are most very large paintings before the 19th century. the term covers large paintings in oil on canvas or fresco produced between the renaissance and the late 19th century, after which the term is generally not used even for the many works that still meet the basic definition. history painting may be used interchangeably with historical painting, and was especially so used before the 20th century. where a distinction is made "historical painting" is the painting of scenes from secular history, whether specific episodes or generalized scenes. in the 19th century historical painting in this sense became a distinct genre. in phrases such as "historical painting materials", "historical" means in use before about 1900, or some earlier date. history paintings were traditionally regarded as the highest form of western painting, occupying the most prestigious place in the hierarchy of genres, and considered the equivalent to the epic in literature. in his de pictura of 1436, leon battista alberti had argued that multi-figure history painting was the noblest form of art, as being the most difficult, which required mastery of all the others, because it was a visual form of history, and because it had the greatest potential to move the viewer. he placed emphasis on the ability to depict the interactions between the figures by gesture and expression. this view remained general until the 19th century, when artistic movements began to struggle against the establishment institutions of academic art, which continued to adhere to it. at the same time there was from the latter part of the 18th century an increased interest in depicting in the form of history painting moments of drama from recent or contemporary history, which had long largely been confined to battle-scenes and scenes of formal surrenders and the like. scenes from ancient history had been popular in the early renaissance, and once again became common in the baroque and rococo periods, and still more so with the rise of neoclassicism. in some 19th or 20th century contexts, the term may refer specifically to paintings of scenes from secular history, rather than those from religious narratives, literature or mythology.