While I know the artists and can identify their works, this exhibition has taught me about their technique and the benefits of metalpoint. The medium was quite popular during the Renaissance. NGA explains: "An artist working in metalpoint uses a sharp, pointed instrument (a stylus) with a metal tip to draw on paper, parchment, or wood that has been specially coated. As the stylus travels across this slightly abrasive ground, a small amount of metal is scraped off and remains behind, creating a line. When first drawn, all metalpoint lines, including those made by gold, appear gray, an optical effect that stems in part from the breaking down of the metal into tiny particles. Some metals oxidize, or tarnish, to different colors over time: silver, for example, generally turns golden brown. Others, such as gold, never tarnish and remain gray."
Some of the benefits of metalpoint - and of silverpoint in particular - is that it is resistant to smearing and is exceptionally durable. Hence, we can enjoy art works from several centuries ago. The delicate lines of the point are great for capturing even the smallest detail.
Sketches by Leonardo da Vinci often make me pause and really study them. But, now that I understand the technique of metalpoint, I know I will look even closer as I have never tried if myself and find it fascinating to examine the process and tools of other artists.
The exhibition is open until July 26, 2015, and is located in the West Building Ground Floor.