ArtLex Art Dictionary




aaltarpiece or altar-piece - A piece of artwork which is placed above and either on or behind an altar in a Christian church or other religious platform. Usually it is a votive painting, a set of painted and/or carved panels (often a triptych), or a decorative screen.




see thumbnail to leftChina, Hebei province, Maitreya altarpiece, Northern Wei dynasty, 524, bronze with gilding, height 30 1/4 inches (76.9 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See Chinese art.



Jan van Eyck (Flemish, 1395-1441), The Ghent altarpiece, 1432, oil on panels (triptych), 4 feet 9 1/2 inches x 6 feet 9 inches, Cathedral of St. Bavo, Ghent, Cathedral of St. Bavo, Ghent. see thumbnail to rightDetails: Adam from left wing, Eve from right. Detail of lower central panel: Worshippers.




see thumbnail to leftHieronymus [Jerome] Bosch (Dutch, 1450-1516), The Haywain, c. 1485-90, oil on wood panels (triptych), El Escorial, Monasterio de San Lorenzo, now in the Prado, Madrid. Central panel, 140 x 100 cm. Left wing: Paradise, c. 147 x 66 cm. Right wing: Hell, 147 x 66 cm.

When this altarpiece is closed, the viewer sees a picture called see thumbnail to rightThe Path of Life, 147 x 118 cm.




see thumbnail to leftHieronymus [Jerome] Bosch (Dutch, 1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights (triptych), c. 1500, Prado, Madrid. Creation of the World, depicting the third day of creation, the two closed outer wings (or shutters) for this triptych, each is 220 x 97 cm. Garden of Earthly Delights (Ecclesia's paradise), the central panel, 220 x 195 cm. Left wing: The Earthly Paradise (Garden of Eden), 220 x 97 cm. Right wing: Hell, 220 x 97 cm. Detail from right wing. See symbol.



see thumbnail to rightAlbrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), The Paumgartner Altarpiece, c. 1498-1504, oil on wood panel, central panel 155 x 126 cm; side panels: 157 x 61 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.




see thumbnail to leftMatthias Grünewald (German, c.1475-1528), The Isenheim Alterpiece, c. 1510-16, oil on wood panels (triptych), 8 feet 10 inches x 4 feet 8 inches, executed for the hospital chapel of Saint Anthony's Monastery in Isenheim in Alsace, now in the Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France. Panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece: The Meeting of St Anthony Abbot and St Paul in the Wilderness, and The Temptation of St Anthony. The Crucifixion, detail from one of the closed wings. Detail of celebrating angels, from the lefthand portion of the central panel. The Resurrection, from the right panel (open).



see thumbnail to rightRaphael (born Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, 1483-1520), Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, altarpiece, c. 1504, tempera and gold on wood; main panel, overall 67 7/8 x 67 7/8 inches (172.4 x 172.4 cm), painted surface 66 3/4 x 66 1/2 inches (169.5 x 168.9 cm); lunette, overall 29 1/2 x 70 7/8 inches (74.9 x 180 cm), painted surface 25 1/2 x 67 1/2 inches (64.8 x 171.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. (On the Met's page, you can enlarge any detail.) See Madonna and Renaissance.



Also see cathedral, predella, retable, triptych, and votive.






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