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What Is a Diptych Painting?

Sometimes, an image is just too good to contain in one painting. Sometimes, you need to expand it! Let it go across multiple canvases, and let the composition take up more than just one frame. There is a special name for this, however, Diptych. These are the dual-painting counterpart to triptychs, which we’ve talked about before. What exactly is a diptych, though? It’s a piece that spans over two canvases. There should be a distinction; this isn’t just any two pieces next to each other. Two separate paintings next to each other are just, well, two paintings.

No, to make a diptych, you need to have one piece across two different canvases. One picture. Two frames. If you get that, you have a diptych.

In this post, we’re going to go over just what diptychs are, a little bit of their history, and how you can liven up your home decor with them today! We’ll also go over some things to keep in mind if you plan on framing a diptych, as it can be trickier, both technically and aesthetically, than your typical one canvas piece of art. Don’t worry, though, we have you covered with everything and more.

History of Diptychs

Like their three-pieced counterpart, diptychs go back a long way, as far back as Ancient Rome, in fact. They were used frequently in the middle ages, too. People living back then often found them in cathedrals, churches, etc. The term itself harkens back to Greek; the word “dis” means two in that language and “ptykhe” means fold. So, essentially, they were trying to tell us that you’re getting art, twofold with this style- literally.

They weren’t always paintings, though. They could be carved into all sorts of media — wood, stone, metal, even ivory.

Similar to triptychs, diptychs started out as hinged pieces that could be folded like books. This made them easier to transport from location to location, as they were moved often. By being closable, it ensured that no damage would be done to the art.

Famous Examples of Diptychs

There are tons of good examples of diptychs throughout the centuries, so naming every famous example would definitely be a task — one far too long for this post alone. That said, we can do a few examples. Given the staying power of the diptych throughout the eras of art, there are instances of this format in many (and we mean many) different styles.

In terms of modern style, one of the most famous diptychs is Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych. Warhol was one of the key founders of the modern pop art craze. And it’s just one of those pieces that, even if you don’t know it by name, you’ve almost certainly seen it (and not just because everyone has seen a photo of Marilyn Monroe).

If you’re looking for a notable example of an old diptych. There’s one that dates back to the 1300s, and it’s called the Crucifixion and Last Judgment diptych. Painted by Jan van Eyck, who you may not have heard of, it depicts a lot of the original pastiches of diptychs- including the often religious content of older pieces.

Even though diptychs are only two canvases, we’ll give you one last example of one- making it three overall, at least in this post. The last one we’ll go over is the Wilton Diptych. It’s another old one, from around the same time as our previous examples. It’s currently in the National Gallery in London and has religious imagery. In addition, it’s small and closable. This makes for easy portability. This makes it a great example of one of the key features of early diptychs.

Where You Can Find Diptychs Today

As we stated earlier, diptychs started as a carving-based art. The early artists carved it on bones, wood, and the like. As technology evolves, though, so does art. You can find diptychs now in, well, pretty much every different medium. It could be photography, paintings, drawings, digital art; whatever you can think of, there’s probably a diptych for it.

That said, if you’re looking for them online, your best bet might be Great Big Canvas. Their prices can be expensive, and the art usually leans toward paintings, but everything listed is usually of great quality. And you’ll be supporting local artists, too, with your purchase.

If you’re looking for something with a lot of good aesthetics, but a bit more affordable, you should always check out Etsy. Yes, we plug them a lot when we make recommendations for purchases, and for good reasons; you can pretty much search for anything on that site (as they advertise on the home page) and find something close to what you were looking for. Better yet, the price should usually be reasonable. It would be another great way to support a local artist’s side hustle. So that would be a good go-to as well!

Best Frames To Get For Diptychs

You can likely assume that, if you’re getting a diptych that is carved on wood or the like, you likely won’t need a frame for it. You would just find the appropriate mounting hardware, which we couldn’t provide, as that is not our speciality, and then put it on your wall. We’re sure it’ll look great!

That said, for the more photograph or painting-inclined, there are picture frames. We’ve stated this before for our triptych post, and we’ll repeat it here. For pieces that stretch across multiple canvases, you want to create as little of a barrier between each portion as possible — at least we think so. In that case, getting our thinner styles, such as our Hanover or Ashford, might be your best bet.

For canvas-based material, our Ashford or Hanover might be even more essential, just from a functionality standpoint. Our metal frames can accommodate thicker art than our wood frames can; they can accommodate art up to 1/4″ thick. Canvases tend to run thicker, too. If this is the case with your painting, Ashford, Hanover, or any of four metal styles, really, might be your best bet.

Dual Framing

Diptychs are a classic art format, and they don’t seem to be going away any time soon. They can break up the basic one canvas or photo flow of your wall decor, and just add something… unexpected into your display. You have centuries of options to choose from, so there should be no shortage if you want to add this dynamic to your home. You can even make one yourself! Take a photo, split it into two, and frame them next to each other. Boom! You have a diptych. It’s really that easy.

Already have a diptych in one of our frames? Be sure to share it with us on Instagram. We’d love to see it!

What Is a Diptych Painting?

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