Altarpiece  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two, three, and multiple panels respectively. Groups of statuary can be placed on the altar. Sometimes the altarpiece is set on the altar itself.

If the altar stands free in the choir, both sides of the altarpiece can be covered with painting. The screen, retable or reredos are commonly decorated.

Originally, the altarpiece was placed in front of the altar, with the priest standing behind it facing the congregation. In the 13th century, the altarpiece moved behind the altar, with the sacrament placed in front of it and the priest standing with his back to the congregation. This movement to behind the altar allowed the altarpiece to expand to larger proportions, such as how they were during the Renaissance.

Famous examples include,

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Altarpiece" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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