predella (prĕdĕlˈlä) [key], Italian term for a painted panel, usually small, belonging to a series of panels at the bottom of an altarpiece. The form was used mainly in Italy from the 13th to the 16th cent. Often added as a "footnote" to the main theme of an altarpiece, predella panels generally consist of narrative scenes, e.g., the Passion of Jesus or the lives of the saints. The artist had an opportunity to express himself with more inventiveness and vivacity in these episodes than in the main panel, where the image was conventionalized to a greater extent. Several beautiful panels from back of the Maestà by Duccio are in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., which also has two scenes by Domenico Veneziano.
See study by R. Salvini and L. Traverso (tr. 1961).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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