This programmatic picture of the Nazarenes is closely linked with the founding history of the Städel. As an interpretation of the history of art it was intended to have a didactic effect on the visitors to the rooms of the newly established institute. Overbeck, who was commissioned with its production, was considered by his contemporaries to be "by far the greatest artist who ever lived". Over one hundred artists have been assembled in this triumphant picture, where they are worshipping the Virgin Mary. This concept of art did not fit with the forward-looking mood in the liberal middle-class city, and the painting aroused violent criticism after its completion.