The Cadaver Synod (1870) by the French painter Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921). Laurens shows here one of the most bizarre episodes of the medieval history. In 897 a posthumos trial was conducted against the dead Pope Formosus therefore removed from his tomb.
Israel in Egypt (1867) by the English painter Edward Poynter (1836-1919). Despite showing the hard slave labour of the people of Israel the artist is much more fascinated by the monumental Egyptian architecture which he evidently knew by the prints of David Roberts.
Tyrolean Militia (1883) by the Austrian artist Franz von Defregger (1835-1921). Defregger did mostly genre and history paintings. Here he combined both showing the departure of the Tyrolean Militia during the uprising against the Napoleonic suppression. It's the people going to war, strong and proud, an appeal to nationalism.
A Christian Dirce (1897) by the Polish painter Henryk Hector Siemiradzki (1843-1902). Siemiradzki depicted here how a christian martyr is killed in the circus in a kind of re-enactment of the myth of Dirce who was killed by being tied to the horns of a bull. It's a very spectacular scenery from the apex of history painting, a pale beautiful body, a fat decadent Nero, gladiators and exotic Nubian slaves. Much too nice to frighten.
Fight between two men in the Neolithic by the French painter Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse (1859-1938). Without any doubt a nice ironic piece of work. Above the two quarreling cavemen sits a nude woman as the prize for the winner. So the painting suggests, nothings has changed, maybe only the methods a little.
Founding of an African Colony by Prussian ships by the German military painter Richard Knötel (1857-1914). Knötel was probably the most popular illustrator of Prussian military history in the late 19th century. Here he depicted a nearly forgotten episode of Prussian history, but his real intention was to provide the in his time current German imperialism with a historical tradition.
Proclamation of an Edikt in Venice (1891) by the French artist Jacques Clement Wagrez (1846-1908). Wagrez specialized in historical genre paintings mostly settled in the Italian renaissance. They are well done, but mostly without any further intention that to be a nice piece of decoration.
Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake (1843) by the German Romantic painter Hermann Anton Stilke (1803-1860). Stilke was a member of the very religious Nazarene movement and depicted here Joan of Arc in the style of a religious saint painting. To emphasize this intention the painting was part of a bigger Joan of Arc Triptych.
The Execution of Torrijos and his companions at Málaga Beach (1888) by the Spanish painter Antonio Gisbert Pérez (1835-1902). Gisbert Pérez was a convinced liberal and depicted here the tragical end of a liberal revolution in 1831. Another forfeited chance to modernize his country.
History painting dates back to the Renaissance and was long considered to be the "grand genre". Nevertheless it has its peak in the 19th century forged by Neoclassicism and Romanticism. There it became the artistic contribution in the process of the construction of National Identities of the European and American nations.
At the same time history painting under the influence of historism pretended to be "realistic", to show history how it has been. Above all it was this pretension that led to the great failure of History painting AND Realism at the end of the century.
When artists and their public realized that telling history always will be subjective and a painting will always be an illusion Realism and history painting lost their ground to modern painting.