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Drawing With Silver

1 Jul

03-silverpoint

There’s a new exhibition coming up at The British Museum this Autumn – drawings in metalpoint. These are drawings made with silver or gold onto specially prepared paper, a technique used before the invention of graphite pencils. I did some work in Silverpoint a while back (above), drawing directly from a life model.

The tool is a smooth barrel of wood like an etching needle but the point is a piece of silver wire, 99% pure. It can be used flat or as a very sharp point, but you have to be accurate because it can’t be rubbed out. Renaissance artists didn’t use the technique for quick scribbling, it was for careful studies. The paper has to be coated with a special Silverpoint Medium; I don’t know what’s in the modern version, but back in the day it was made from finely ground bone mixed with animal glue. When it’s dry, you draw the fine silver point across the paper and the bone drags molecules of the metal off and in a few seconds it tarnishes. This means that you can’t see the line you’ve drawn until the tarnish appears.

da vinci

Leonardo da Vinci’s Bust Of A Warrior in metalpoint

The British Museum is just up the road from my all time favourite artist suppliers, Cornelissen & Son, so I could combine a visit to the exhibition with a shopping trip to Cornelissen to buy silverpoint materials. Now that sounds like a plan 😀

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