Silverpoint - SilverPointWeb.Com - History and Overview of...

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Introduction History Workshops Products Galleries Resources Silverpoint Drawing Complete Overview and History of Silverpoint Drawing Silverpoint (more broadly, "metal point") drawing is an archaic medium which reached its peak in the Renaissance period. Very early in the history of writing , scribes would use metal stylii to make marks in and on a variety of permanent and temporary media, including wax and clay tablets. Wealthy and royal persons who needed to keep records (business inventories and so forth) employed these scribes, and the stylus material served as notice to all of the status of the employer - gold and silver for the upper classes, lead for somewhat lesser beings. ( An interesting essay on writing technology development .) As writing developed further, animal skins were used (vellum and parchment). These skins (called the "support," stretched and scraped thin and then dried), had to be prepared to accept the marks made with the stylus. So a "ground" was applied to and worked into the surface; the ground consisted of a pigment, usually white, in a binding vehicle. The binding vehicle could be any number of preparations, including spittle and urine. Early on, the pigments included pumice (probably from Mount Vesuvius), chalk, bone ash, ground roasted bone (from chickens), and so forth. The use of prepared animal skins as supports for important documents written in silverpoint would continue for centuries. In archives and collections throughout Europe one can find historical documents written in silverpoint on animal skins by ancient scribes. I stumbled across one in a cathedral in northeastern England, displayed in a case with various artifacts documenting and illuminating the cathedral's history. In spite of the relative lack of care, this example on vellum was in excellent condition and quite readable. Sometime during the late medieval period (11th through 14th C.), paper technology gradually spread through Europe from the Far East. Paper at this time was literally worth its weight in gold! Scribes continued to use the metal stylus to make their marks on papers prepared in the same way as animal skins. Page 1 of 6 SilverPointWeb.Com - History and Overview of Silverpoint Drawing, Techniques and Te. .. 5/13/2010
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Soon artists got into the act. The Dictionary of Art (1996: MacMillan, Ltd., v. 21, pp. 339-340) states, "although a metal stylus had been used to inscribe surfaces since Classical times, metalpoint was employed for drawing only from the medieval period. It was in frequent use from the late 14th Century up to the early 17th and was particularly favoured in the Renaissance period in Italy, the Netherlands, and in Germany. .." (1) Cennino Cennini, writing in the 14th century, describes, in his Il Libro dell'Arte (2) , the preparation of the surface to make it ready for silverpoint (he specifies dried chicken bones, burned until very white, mixed with color, then moistened with spittle). Leonardo da Vinci's preparation
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This note was uploaded on 09/26/2011 for the course GPH 225 taught by Professor Gph225 during the Winter '10 term at DePaul.

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Silverpoint - SilverPointWeb.Com - History and Overview of...

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