In Northern Europe, there was an emphasis on private religious practice and individual piousness. 
Patrons were people who commissioned artists to create pieces based on their requests. Patrons supplied the painter with materials and the paint. 
Painters had some creative license when it came to their subject matter and what they decided to paint. The patrons are seen on the side of the paintings witnessing a Biblical miracle or praying to a saint. 
Portraits became increasingly popular in Northern Europe. For women, the Virgin Mary became the model for women to pose as in their portraits, while men posed as their namesake saint. 
These portraits were hung in private homes as a testament to that family's commitment to God and the arts.
The rise of the middle-class merchant family in Northern Europe also caused a boom in the domestic art market.
Families could show their wealth, status, and religious piety by commissioning works of art to display in their homes. Much of this art marked important events, such as weddings, funerals, and religious holidays.
The importance of individual worship in Northern Europe was founded on individual devotion to God and individual absolution of sin, instead of collective worship. Merchant families and patrons displayed their individual devotion to God through commissioning artworks.