Diptych Art: Double Whammy!

Diptych Art: Double Whammy!

Diptych Art Definition: 

Diptych is a word of Greek origin and literally means an object with two flat plates which together form a pair, and are attached together. As an art term, diptych means an artwork consisting of two pieces or panels that come together and form a singular work or art. These may be attached together or presented in an adjoining manner. In ancient times, these panels were hinged, so that they could be closed and the artwork could be protected. 

Diptych Art History:  

In the late antiquity period diptychs were a significant art form, and was also gifted upon becoming a roman consul. Some of the most important works that have survived from the late Roman period are diptychs. In the Middle Ages, ivory diptychs were used and presented religious scenes; it often included a depiction of a donor on one panel, that is, the one who commissions the painting; and his or her offerings to Virgin Mary and her child in the other panel section. These paintings went on to become popular during the Gothic period in the West, and were mainly produced in Paris, as the diptych style suited the mobile lives of the medieval elites.  

Even in the early Netherlandish paintings subjects that were depicted in diptych paintings ranged from secular portraiture to religious stories and personages. Diptych paintings were especially popular in the 15th and 16th centuries.  

Painters like Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes are prominent diptych painters. In modern times artists like Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych made in 1962, became a pop culture hit! Although, Diptych originally would mean two plates attached at a hinge, which mostly included reliefs and tablets, later according to modern art, this would refer to two panels of paintings that are meant to be placed next to each other. 

Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych:  

Andy Warhol | Marilyn Diptych, 1962. Acrylic paint, silkscre… | Flickr

Marilyn Diptych, 1962. Acrylic paint, silkscreen ink, graphite on linen (1928-1987) Tate London. SFMOMA

Warhol’s Diptych art is made up of two silver canvases on which Marilyn Monroe’s photograph has been silkscreened fifty times. In an essay by Tina Rivers, she writes how the Monroe painting at a first glance looks as if it’s explicitly references a form of Christian paintings but instead worships the legendary icon in order to immortalize her as art. However, upon further examination, Warhol’s diptych art is a carefully crafted critique of modern as well as contemporary art, and reveals influences from not only pop culture but also art history that was famous around New York. 

The Marilyn diptych series was a silkscreen print taken from her image in the film Niagara, which was reproduced in color and then black and white. It was made months after the actress’ death by the painter who is said to be both fascinated by the actress as well as her death itself. The color images against the black and white is suggestive of life and death, while the repetition of the actress’ face is said to echo Marilyn’s ubiquitous presence in media. 


The work can be considered to be postmodernist, as its reference to pop culture the Diptych art style was also popularly adapted in photography and other visual art forms. It is commonly used to focus on two main elements, wherein one plate has a wide-angle picture of the subject and the second plate or frame has a zoomed in element. Diptych zoom art is also a great way of story-telling when one wants to focus on the nuances of a scene of image. 

Additionally it can also be used to express a lapse in time or activity and similarly show a sense of succession or progression. Thus, diptych art started off as an art piece made up of two parts attached by hinges, and were invariably small in size but went on to evolve into art pieces and a form of visual presentation in other mediums too.