A history painting presents a story drawn from the Bible or mythology. A separate category features historical events. The earliest history paintings in the collection present actual contemporary occurrences, for example the Joyous Entry of François, Duke of Anjou (1582) and Otto van Veen’s The Relief of Leiden (1594). Artists also revived Roman history. Those examples were intended to inspire just conduct, such as The Continence of Scipio, a superb painting on copper by Karel van Mander. In the 17th century, painters also used Roman scenes as metaphors for the situation in the Netherlands. For instance, the Batavian Revolt against the Romans – depicted in Ferdinand Bol’s Claudius Civilis – actually referred to the Netherlands’ struggle with Spain. Painters also used allegories to comment on the political situation.
Pieneman the elder and younger presented a Dutch vision of the French rule in their homeland. There are a number of works by them in the collection, including the