An illustration by the
French artist Paul Lehugeur (1854-1932?) for “Histoire de France en
cent tableaux”, Paris, 1886. There is the Gaul chieftain Brennus
weighing the Roman ransom money in 387 BC. According to Livy, during
a dispute over the weights used to measure the gold, Brennus threw
his sword onto the scales and uttered the famous words "Vae
victis!", which translates to "woe to the conquered!"
Le droit du
Seigneur (1874) by the Russian painter Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov
(1844-1927). It's highly probale that this medieval right ever
existed. Nevertheless the artist made up a real spectacle where an
old man brings his young daughters to their feudal lord.
The Discovery of Chile
by Diego de Almagro (1913) by the Chilean painter Pedro Subercaseaux
Errázuriz (1880-1956). This event is sometimes considered as the
foundation of Chile. To celebrate it this mural decorates the walls
of the former National Congress of Chile in Santiago.
Marshal Jean Lannes
wounded at the battle of Essling by the French painter Paul-Emile
Boutigny (1853-1929).Lannes was one of
Napoleon's most daring and talented generals an a personal friend of
the emperor. In the bloody battle of Aspern-Essling he was mortally
The capitulation of
Granada, Boabdil confronts Ferdinand and Isabella (1882) by the
Spanish artist Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz (1848-1921). The painting
of this important event decorates know the Palace of the The Senate
of Spain in Madrid.
Semiramis dying on
Ninu’s grave by the Italian painter Augusto Valli (1867-1945).
Valli depicts here the legendary Babylonian queen dying on her dead
husbands tomb. But it seems also more an excuse to present a nude
female body in an exotic setting.
Lady_Godiva by the
French painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911). As legend tells
Lady Godiva was a 11th century English princess married to Leofric,
the Earl of Mercia and lord of Coventry. She begged her husband to
relieve the townspeople of the oppressive taxes and tolls. He
refused, unless she agree to ride through the town naked on
horseback. Out of respect for their lady, it is said, the townspeople
stayed indoors during her ride.
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.