Thursday, January 26, 2012


"Coronation of Mary" Polyptych by Paolo Veneziano
This may sound as a strange word, and many of you may go looking in the dictionary to see what it means, and wondering what I'm coming up with today. But the above masterpiece describes it clearly. A polyptych generally refers to a painting (usually panel painting) which is divided into sections, or panels. The terminology that follows is in relevance to the number of panels integrated into a particular piece of work: "diptych" describes a two-part work of art; "triptych" describes a three-part work; "tetraptych" describes 4 parts; "pentaptych" describes 5 parts, etc. It is possibly the most spectacular work of art that can ever be created.

Polyptychs typically display one "central" or "main" panel that is usually the largest of the attachments, while the other panels are called "side" panels, or "wings." Sometimes, as evident in the Ghent and Isenheim works, the hinged panels can be varied in arrangement to show different "views" or "openings" in the piece. Polyptychs were most commonly created by early Renaissance painters, the majority of which designed their works to be altarpieces in churches and cathedrals.

The Ghent altarpiece, another very descriptive polyptych
The term polyptych can also refer to certain medieval manuscripts, particularly of Carolingian works, in which the columns on the page are framed with borders that resemble polyptych paintings. Another meaning of the word may also refer collectively to all multi-panel paintings; it refers not only to a style of art, but also refers to an altar display. Among the most famous are the Stefaneschi polyptych, the Isenheim altarpiece, the Last Judgment polyptych by Rogier van der Weyden and the Ghent altarpiece, reproduced here above.

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