The Middle Ages extended over long period of nearly 1 000 years, from the Fall of the Western Roman Empire (A.D. 476) to the Renaissance (ca. 1400/1500). The era was dominated by the teachings of the Christian Church and by a social order of great contradictions, represented by, on the one hand, the nobility and the humanists, and, on the other, the servile peasant classes. This picture was reflected to the full in the art of the time. During the Middle Ages, the greater part of the iconography of the pictorial arts consisted of religious subjects and portraits. First to herald the Renaissance were Italian artists, with their addition of a three-dimensional effect in their painting, and their introduction of expression in the figuration.