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An altarpiece which consists of a number of panels is called a polyptych, 'poly' meaning many in Greek. In the most popular form the main tier would consist of a central panel containing the figure of a saint or, more often, the Virgin and Child, and the side panels would contain figures of single or paired saints. Other, smaller panels might contain half-length figures of saints ranged above the main tier. The whole structure would be mounted on a predella, made up of small rectangular panels often with narrative scenes.

Most polyptychs have been dismembered and the surviving panels distributed between several museums and galleries.