The Empress Theodora at the Colosseum (c. 1889) by the French painter Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902). Nothing is to be seen of the bloody spectacle in the arena. There is only the empress, cool and relaxed she is watching. But it's no coincidence that the dominating colour is red.
Andromache (1884) by the French painter Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse (1859-1938). Andromache was the wife of the Trojan hero Hector, who was slain by Achilles. When Troy felt Ulysses tried to kill her son and she became a Greek prisoner and slave. So, Rochegrosse gives here an impressive view of what happened in Troy after its fall.
Columbus at San Salvador by the American history painter Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930). This painting was probably done in the 1920s. Costumes, arms and the backdrop details are much better than on the typical 19th century paintings. But Ferris is already late, he painted in the manner of a bygone epoch. A better decoration didn't make a better painting at this time.
Defending the pulpit in the monastery San Agustín (1884) by the Spanish painter César Álvarez Dumont (1866 – 1945). Another heroic fighting scene from the defense of Zaragoza in 1808/09. The defense of Zaragoza by its population was in Spain probably the most glorified episode of the Napoleonic wars.
Beneath the Arena (1882) by the German painter Karl Theodor von Piloty (1826–1886). Especially compared to the typical arena paintings, which prefered mostly the great spectacle, this is a more silent work. A young Roman patrician looks impressed on a Christian women sleeping while awaiting her death in the arena.
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.