Notebook, 1993-


Drawing - Stylus


Metalpoint drawing is one with a stylus with a point made of gold, silver, copper or lead on a ground prepared by coating paper or parchment with a paste of crushed eggshell or bone. The artist presses the stylus into the coating to create an image somewhat similar in appearance to a light pencil drawing. If the point is of silver, tiny particles of silver are left in the indentations of the stylus and these naturally tarnish, turning the indentations in the paper into darker lines.

Metalpoint was used extensively by artists of the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. In the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, Flemish artists working in the court of Paris and that of the Duc de Berry at Bourges developed a style in which extremely fine, precise lines, drawn close together, formed delicate gradations of tones and modeling. In the fifteenth century, silver point was a favored medium for sketches and studies, used by Netherlandish artists such as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, and Italians such as Filippino Lippi, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vince.

In Head of a Youth by Lorenzo di Credi, the artist pressed deeply into the coating on the paper to achieve the effect of eyes set deep beneath the brows. The very texture and substance of form is conveyed in the fine parallel lines that subtly model the youthful cheeks, in the white highlights, and in the lines that follow the direction of the neatly combed flowing hair.

During the sixteenth century, artists tended to abandon metalpoint for media allowing greater freedom and flexibility. however, knowledge of metalpoint was not completely lost, and the medium has even been used occasionally in the twentieth century.

[Drawing Techniques, Gallery Notes P5 - Works on Paper Series. Print, Drawing, and Photography Galleries. 1984, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.]



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