While diptych (psst... it’s pronounced dip-tick) is inarguably an unusual word it’s also a common art style that has been popular amongst artists for centuries. Traditionally, diptychs involved two separate panels, which could be two seperate pieces or a piece continued on both panels, that were hinged together to form a “book”. In modern art diptychs are typically portrayed on two unhinged separate pieces that are hung next to one another, however diptychs can be seen on a single panel with a divider (such as a painted line) to seperate the piece.
The word diptych is derived from the Greek words “dis”, which means “two”, and “ptyke” which means “fold”, and originally described folding writing tablets used in ancient Rome. In those days the tablets were made of wood, bone, or metal and hinged together facing plates of wax which could be used to inscribe notes. Various religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, later used diptychs to tell religious stories, honor important church figures, or were used in private worship and prayer.
Today we see diptychs in a variety of modern and classical art pieces. Andy Warhol created the most well-known modern diptych in 1962. The piece features two staggering six-by-nine-foot panels that showcase repeated portraits of Marilyn Monroe in both color and black and white. Classical examples include The Wilton Diptych (1396) and the Diptych of Jean Carondelet (1517).