T is for Triptych

| May 4, 2014

A triptych is a work of art, usually a panel painting, in three parts hinged together that can be displayed closed or open. This form starts in early Christian art and became a popular standard format for altar paintings since the Middle Ages.  The ubiquitious nature of the triptych in churches spread from the Byzantine empire to Celtic churches and then to Renaissance painters and sculptors.

The triptych is often heard in popular culture when reading about art because of the outrageous price of $142.4 million paid for the 1969 triptych, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud”, by Francis Bacon. Bacon painted 28 known triptychs from 1944-1986. This is three individually framed canvases featuring painter Lucian Freud seated but restlessly changing position. The buyer was a mystery until outed by the New York Times as Elaine Wynn, ex wife of Casino owner Steve Wynn. The astronomical value was unexpected, Christies had originally priced it at 85 million.