This hierarchy of genres, established by the French Royal Academy, was based on the notion of man as the measure of all things. Landscape and still life were the lowest because they did not involve human subject matter. History was highest because it dealt with the noblest events of human history and with religion.
Genres are types of painting. These were codified in the seventeenth century as (in descending order of importance) history, portrait, genre (scenes of everyday life), landscape and still life