A Rake's Progress, its engraved reproductions protected by Hogarth's Act, earned Hogarth a great deal of money and permitted him to give attention to his lifelong ambition, which was to paint "history pictures". Such paintings were considered the peak of artistic achievement. They were the continuance of a long tradition that had started many centuries earlier with the painting of Bible stories and the lives of saints for the Church. Later, when kings usurped the supreme power of the Church and assumed some of its divinity, history paintings were commissioned to glorify royal virtues and victories. But British artists were never good at works of this sort, and by Hogarth's time the tradition was no longer strong. Nevertheless, he spent the better part of two years painting two enormous pictures on Biblical themes The Pool of Bethesda and The Good Samaritan. Unfortunately, the paintings showed none of Hogarth's usual vigour or spontaneity. They were obviously done in imitation of various old masters, whose works Hogarth had carefully studied in spite of his often-expressed disapproval of foreign painters. The paintings earned him little praise and no commissions.