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metalpoint


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Method of drawing using a small metal-tipped rod on paper or other material that has been coated with a special ground. This coating is slightly granular (it contains powdered bone), causing a trace of the metal to rub off on it. The metal may be copper, gold, lead, or (most commonly) silver, which gives an attractive fine grey line that oxidizes to a light brown. Often the ground is tinted with pigment, increasing the opportunity for delicate colouristic effects. The strength of tone can hardly be varied at all, so the technique depends on the quality of the drawn line and is best suited to work on a small scale. It demands great certainty of purpose and hand, for the line cannot be removed except by disturbing the ground. Silverpoint first appeared in medieval Italy and was particularly popular in the 15th century; Dürer and Leonardo were perhaps the greatest exponents of the medium. It went out of fashion in the 17th century, probably because the graphite pencil was coming in, but was revived in the 18th century by miniature painters, especially in France.


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