A polyptych (// POL-ip-tik; Greek: polu- "many" and ptychē "fold") 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 or quadriptych describes 4 parts; pentaptych describes 5 parts; hexaptych describes 6 parts; heptaptych describes 7 parts; and octaptych is the term used for an eight-part, or eight-panel, work of art.
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 polyptych form of art was also quite popular among ukiyo-e printmakers of Edo period Japan.
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.
- The Stefaneschi Polyptych, c. 1320, by Giotto
- The Ghent Altarpiece, completed in 1432 by Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck
- The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald
- The Saint Vincent Panels (1470–1480) by Nuno Gonçalves
- Polyptych of the Misericordia (1445–1462) by Piero della Francesca
- The Last Judgment Polyptych (1450) by Rogier van der Weyden
- Saint Augustine Polyptych (1470) by Perugino
- The Monte San Martino Altarpiece (1471 ca.), by Carlo Crivelli
- St. Dominic Polyptych (1506–1508) by Lorenzo Lotto
Media related to Polyptych at Wikimedia Commons
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