AskDefine | Define predella

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A raised step near the base of a christian altar.
  2. A series of carvings or paintings on this step, often forming a narrative.

Extensive Definition

A predella is the platform or step on which an altar stands. In painting, predella refers to the paintings or sculptures running along the frame at the bottom of an altarpiece. In later medieval and Renaissance altarpieces, where the main panel consisted of a scene with large static figures, it was normal to include a predella below with a number of small-scale narrative paintings depicting incidents from the life of the dedicatee, whether Christ, the Virgin Mary or a saint. Typically there would be three to five small scenes, in a horizontal format.
They are significant in art history, as the artist had more freedom from iconographic conventions than in the main panel; they could only be seen from close up. As the main panels themselves became more dramatic, during Mannerism, predellas were no longer painted, and they are rare by the middle of the 16th century. Predella scenes are now often separated from the rest of the altarpiece in museums.
Examples of predellas include:
predella in German: Predella
predella in Esperanto: Predelo
predella in Spanish: Predela
predella in French: Prédelle
predella in Italian: Predella
predella in Dutch: Predella
predella in Polish: Predella
predella in Russian: Пределла
predella in Swedish: Predella
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