Drawing In Silver And Gold: Leonardo To Jasper Johns

Metalpoint is a technique dating back to the fourteenth century and is used to this very day. Featuring artworks from across six centuries Drawing In Silver And Gold is the first exhibition dedicated to this lost art and is on display now at the British Museum.

The chronological arrangement of the display demonstrates the passage of metalpoint from its origins in the Renaissance through to the present day. The first panel of the display features two examples of metalpoint and sets the precedent for the exhibition. Both depict metalpoint sketches of hands, one by Leonardo DaVinci from the fifteenth century and one from the twenty first century. The placement of these two artworks with the same subject matter side by side highlights the stark contrast in style that six centuries has had on this technique.

4. Leonardo da Vinci, Bust of a warrior,

Leonardo da Vinci, Bust of a warrior, c. 1475, silverpoint, on cream prepared paper, 287 x 211mm. © The Trustees of the British Museum

For metalpoint art, a thin stick known as a stylus is required. This stick is made out of metal such as silver, gold or copper. The drawing is created when the stylus is used on a roughened, abrasive surface which scrapes off some of the metal. The mark that this leaves on the paper is the artwork, artists literally draw in silver and gold. Due to the nature of the technique, if a mistake is made it cannot be erased and requires a high level of skill and accuracy to execute. It is believed that metalpoint was initially used in the decoration of manuscripts but by the fourteenth century it was being taught and used in painters’ workshops.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the double-sided sheet featured early on in the exhibition. These pages come from an album of drawings collected by none other than the Georgio Vasari. The metalpoint drawings on these pages are nothing short of exquisite and were created by Filippo Lippi with a rare example by Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli. As you move through the exhibition, you are taken on a journey through the centuries and encounter gems by Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Holbein the Elder and Albrecht Durer.

Drawing In Silver And Gold 10th September – 6th December 2015

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