Definition of polyptych in US English:



  • A painting, typically an altarpiece, consisting of more than three leaves or panels joined by hinges or folds.

    • ‘But Crivelli's work, limited to Madonnas and elaborate gilded polyptychs, rather than the less remunerative work in fresco, reveals little sense of stylistic development.’
    • ‘Surviving panels by him include parts of a Passion polyptych, recalling his frescoes in S. Francesco, Assisi.’
    • ‘Some consist of a single panel; others are diptychs or polyptychs in which the panels abut or hang a few inches apart.’
    • ‘Masaccio himself painted a small version of Peter's crucifixion for the predella of the Pisa polyptych, where squat pyramids, hardly taller than the figures, take up considerable space at both edges of the panel.’
    • ‘Earlier images of this type took the form of polyptychs, composed of a central panel that featured the Virgin and Child with separate, framed panels attached on either side that bore images of saints.’


Mid 19th century: from late Latin polyptycha (neuter plural) ‘registers’, from Greek poluptukhos ‘having many folds’, from polu- ‘many’ + ptukhē ‘fold’.