Faithful Unto Death - Christianae ad Leones (1897) by the British painter Herbert Gustave Carmichael Schmalz (1856-1935). One of that typical cheesy arena paintings where decorative naked Christians are waiting for the lions. Should be a great horror show but in the end it's all about the beautiful girls exposed to the onlooker – of the painting!
Ecce Homo! (1871) by the Italian painter Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891). Ciseri depicts here the moment when Pontius Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd. That's a classical scenery, but really new it isn't a religious painting, with all the architecture, the clothes the dramatic scenery it's pure history painting. It's much more decoration than religion.
Cleopatra by the American artist Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). Parrish doesn't intend to simulate a far past, Cleopatra looks like a woman of the golden twenties. She's only a symbol for the timeless femme fatale.
Druids cutting the mistletoe (1900) by the French history painter Henri-Paul Motte (1846-1922). Today it looks much more like a fantasy scene from the Lord of the Rings, but then many people thought that their past may have looked like this.
The battle of Legnano 1176 (1831) by the Italian painter Massimo Taparelli, marquis d'Azeglio (1798-1866). Taparelli is glorifying here the moment when the citizens of the Lombard League defend their Carroccio a sacred wagon with the city standard against the knights of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Especially in the 19th century Italian romantics discovered here the roots of modern citizenship.
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.