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Most of the buildings in towns are houses, so townscapes illustrate the appearance of our most familiar environment. The houses and palaces of royalty and the aristocracy are featured earliest in painting, when only the rich could afford to employ artists. The house-portrait became a recognised specialism.

In seventeenth-century Holland, with a prosperous middle class, ordinary people’s houses in towns and villages were the subject or background of very many paintings. Interiors and street scenes were depicted in great detail by de Hooch, Vermeer and many others. Flemish artists such as Teniers and the Brueghels are famous for their views of peasants’ domestic lives. Much later, middle-class Victorians too appreciated records of their comfortable lifestyles.