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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art


Term first used in the 15th century to refer to the complex new narrative and allegorical subjects that were then enlarging the repertory of painters. While remaining in use, its meaning became less clearly defined and more generalized in the 16th century. It appeared prominently for the first time in Books II and III of Leon Battista Alberti’s pioneering treatise on painting, De pictura (written 1435), where the author referred to historia as the most ambitious and most difficult category of works a painter can attempt.

Patricia Emison