Triptych Art History Definition

Triptych Art History Definition

Triptych Definition

A triptych is a triptych if it consists of three separate panels or parts that are hinged or otherwise joined. Wood, canvas, or metal are all viable options for the panels' construction. The size of the panels varies, but often the middle panel is the largest, with two smaller panels on either side.

Since the early centuries, triptychs have been utilized in both religious and secular settings as altarpieces and objects of devotion. While each triptych panel can be appreciated on its own, triptychs are typically conceived as a set to be hung together. When the center panel is hidden, the exterior panels can be used for decoration or to display complementary artwork.

Artists can use the space afforded by a triptych to tell a story or go further into a topic. Religious settings, historical moments, mythological tales, portraits, landscapes, and abstract ideas are all fair game. Triptychs are visually appealing and can be used to tell a more interesting story or increase the impact of the artwork.

Traditional art uses triptychs, but modern painters still employ them because of the formal advantages and creative freedom they provide.

Famous Triptych

Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" is a triptych that has become iconic in Western art. This large painting, created between 1490 and 1510, is in three movable panels that are hinged together. A story is told over the three panels of this triptych, each of which depicts a separate scene.

Adam and Eve, different animals, and verdant greenery all appear in the Garden of Eden in the left panel, which shows the creation of the world. Most complicated and puzzling is the central panel, which depicts a strange and surreal view of earthly pleasures.

It depicts sinful humans partaking in hedonistic pursuits, hybrid creatures, and fascinating landscapes, all of which can be disconcerting. The repercussions of such excess are depicted in the right panel, which features torture, demons, and the condemned.

The symbolism, creativity, and attention to detail in "The Garden of Earthly Delights" have earned it widespread renown. Over the years, it has inspired countless discussions about its significance and captivated countless viewers. Located in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, the triptych is currently on display to the public.

The Top 20 Triptych Paintings

Here is a list of 20 notable triptych paintings from various periods and artists:

  1. "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch
  2. "The Portinari Triptych" by Hugo van der Goes
  3. "The St. John Altarpiece" by Hans Memling
  4. "The Mérode Altarpiece" by Robert Campin
  5. "The Ghent Altarpiece" by Jan van Eyck
  6. "The Last Judgment Triptych" by Hans Memling
  7. "The Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony" by Hieronymus Bosch
  8. "The Triptych of Jan Floreins" by Gerard David
  9. "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" by Jan van Eyck and Hubert van Eyck
  10. "The Crucifixion" by Rogier van der Weyden
  11. "The Temptation of St. Anthony" by Hieronymus Bosch
  12. "The Annunciation" by Rogier van der Weyden
  13. "The Deposition" by Rogier van der Weyden
  14. "The Triptych of the Madonna and Child with Saints" by Jean Fouquet
  15. "The Three Graces" by Peter Paul Rubens
  16. "The Millennium Triptych" by Keith Haring
  17. "The Triptych of the Temptation of Christ" by Salvador Dalí
  18. "The Garden of Early Delights" by Peter Greenaway
  19. "The Triptych" by Francis Bacon
  20. "The Portrait of Hermine Gallia" by Gustav Klimt

These are just a few examples of the many remarkable triptych paintings created throughout art history. Each of these artworks offers unique perspectives, subjects, and artistic styles.

What is a triptych?

A triptych is a work of art (normally a board painting) that is separated into three areas or three cut boards that are aligned together and can be collapsed to close or opened to show the work.

Triptych sometimes referred to as polyptych: the centerboard is usually the biggest and it's flanked by two other works. Nevertheless, there are triptychs of equivalent board sizes.

The triptych structure emerged from early Christian art and was the standard composition for paintings from the Middle Ages onwards. Triptych art ranges in style from the eastern Byzantine to the Celtic houses of worship in the west. During the Byzantine time frame, triptychs were regularly utilized for private reverential use, along with different relics, for symbolic display.

In the Renaissance, painters like Hans Memling and Hieronymus Bosch utilized the triptych structure in their art. Altarpieces, houses of worship, and church buildings frequently incorporated triptych works. The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium, contains two Triptychs by Rubens and Notre Dame de Paris. 

What is a triptych in art?

Usually a panel of three board paintings that are intended to be shown together. Artists utilize the triptych to depict three works of art that are hung together as one piece.

Why are triptychs used?

Triptych art is¬†an architectural structure of work that¬†had a theme component inside¬†buildings and was used to decorate the spaces.¬†A triptych is from the Greek descriptive word ŌĄŌĀőĮŌÄŌĄŌÖŌáőŅőŬ†meaning "three-overlap".¬†

When did the triptych resurface?

In 1976 when a huge triptych painting,Three Studies of Lucian Freud, by the British artist Francis Bacon was exhibited. It's the second most costly Bacon painting and It was sold in November 2013 for $142.4 million.

What is a triptych poem?

A lyric comprising of three ballads of equivalent length next to each other, similar to the boards of a triptych painting.

Famous Triptych Artists

  • Robert Campin
  • Jan van Eyck
  • Hans Memling
  • Hugo van der Goes
  • Robert Campin
  • Hieronymus Bosch
  • Grifo di Tancredi
  • Francis Bacon
  • Master of Frankfurt
  • Hubert van Eyck
  • Giotto¬†di Bondone
  • Frederick McCubbin


Triptych Artwork

The Garden of Earthly Delights - Triptych by Hieronymus Bosch

The Garden of Earthly Delights - Triptych by Hieronymus Bosch

The Garden of Earthly Delights, is a complex work of art, Bosch endeavored to portray the entirety of the human experience from the beginning civilization of life, to the great beyond. The first panel on the left is intended to represent the start of human paradise, and the middle and right panel, showcase how the human existence developed throughout the ages. 


Three Studies of Lucian Freud - Triptych by Francis Bacon

Three Studies of Lucian Freud - Triptych by Francis Bacon

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, depict artist Lucian Freud. Francis Bacon's was a friend of Freud, at the same time they where art rivals, both of them painted portraits of each other. The painting was sold in November 2013 for $142.4 million. 

Michael Peppiatt, art historian, writes:

"Trapped here in a series of Baconian cages, a contorted Freud hovers from panel to panel like a coiled spring about to shoot out of the flat, airless picture plane."


Ghent Altarpiece - Painting by Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck

Ghent Altarpiece - Painting by Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck

The Ghent Altarpiece (or the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Dutch: Het Lam Gods) is a complex fifteenth-century polyptych altarpiece in St Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium. It was started in the mid-1420s and was finished around 1432.

The painting is attributed to the early Netherlandish painters and brothers Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck. Although the altarpiece isn't exactly a triptych, it's viewed as a masterpiece of European art and one of the world's greatest treasures.


Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion - Triptych by Francis Bacon

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion - Triptych by Francis Bacon

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is a very unique triptych piece. Delineating a group of unclear anthropomorphic creatures squirming in anguish.

Bacon established his reputation as one of England's foremost figurative painters and a merciless writer who depicted his ideals of the human condition. Bacon's oeuvre, includes, rough faceless portraits, mangled bodies taking after an animal form, images of screaming figures, carcasses, and idiosyncratic adaptations of the Crucifixion.


Stefaneschi Triptych - Triptych by Giotto di Bondone

Stefaneschi Triptych - Triptych by Giotto

Stefaneschi Triptych is a Gothic tempra board painting by Giotto di Bondone. It was painted roughly around 1320. It currently resides at the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Italy.

Cardinal Giacomo Stefaneschi authorized Bondone to make a magnificent altarpiece for the congregation of St. Dwindle's in Rome. The middle board portrays St. Subside in the front and Christ in the background. Stefaneschi, himself is delineated on the other two boards, and we see him stooping at the foot of both Peter and Christ. 


Portinari Altarpiece - Triptych by Hugo van der Goes

 Portinari Altarpiece - Triptych by Hugo van der Goes

The Portinari Triptych was commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, who was also Medici's (artist) agent in Bruges, and who later turned into a significant financier for Hugo van der Goes. 

The left-wing demonstrates Tommaso and his two children, Antonio and Pigello, and their defenders, St Thomas and St Anthony. The right side showcases Tommaso's wife: Maria Baroncelli, with her eldest daugher Margherita, joined by Mary Magdalen and St Margaret. In the middle we see the adoration of Christ surrounded by angles.


Mérode Altarpiece - Triptych by Robert Campin

Mérode Altarpiece - Triptych by Robert Campin

This triptych, which dates around 1425, is generally known as the Mérode Altarpiece, after the family that possessed it during the nineteenth century. 
Triptych depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel talks to the Virgin Mary and notifies her that she has been picked by God to be the mother of Christ. The helpers of Mary look at this marvelous scene from one side of the panel, the left, while Joseph, on the right is occupied with his work. 

The Pioneer by Frederick McCubbin

The Pioneer Painting by Frederick McCubbin

The three boards recount the story of Free Selector and his family making a living in the Australian shrubbery. Free Selector: was a rancher who decided to take his family to live in the forest. 


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