History painting , as formulated in 1667 by André Félibien, a historiographer, architect and theoretician of French classicism, was in the hierarchy of genres considered to be the grande genre .
History paintings included paintings with religious, mythological, historical, literary, or allegorical subjects--they embodied some interpretation of life or conveyed a moral or intellectual message.
The gods and goddesses from the ancient mythologies represented different aspects of the human psyche, figures from religions represented different ideas, and history, like the other sources, represented a dialectic or play of ideas. For a long time, especially during the French Revolution, history painting often focused on depiction of the heroic male nude; though this waned into the 19th century.
In the mid-nineteenth-century there arose a style known as historicism, which marked a formal imitation of historical styles and/or artists.