Symposium: Silver and Gold – Investigating Metalpoint Drawing
This symposium was organized by the department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the British Museum, with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The main focus of the symposium was on the metalpoint drawing. But with the various background of the speakers, the technique, material and historical background of metalpoint were investigated from different angles.
The presentation “Early Uses of Metalpoint” by Thea Burns draw the attention back to medieval time. Archaeological, documentary, literary, terminological and visual evidence for the use of metalpoint for drawing in these early periods were reviewed.
Then the next speaker Kimberly Schenck, from National Gallery of Art, USA, was giving an overview of the materials and techniques in metalpoint drawings. This is very useful for me to understand the other lectures following, since I have not knew too much about the technique of metalpoint drawing. The generic term “metalpoint” refers to drawings created by a tool made of a metal or combination of metals of any type whereas “silverpoint” designates that the tool was made primarily of silver. As the speaker pointed out that, not only the material of the metalpoint, but also the support and the ground are also play important roles in the drawing. And the appearance of a metalpoint drawing reflects the artist’s choice of tool, ground and support, and his or her ability to manipulate these materials.
The following speakers were talking about the scientific examination method of metalpoint. In the lecture given by researchers from the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, British Museum, they talked about the different methods which they used for investigating those drawings. I was impressed by how logical their analysis methods are. Their analysis methods are based on three levels. Firstly, they called it “conservation examination”, in which art historical information was gathered for each drawing. Then the second step is taking images using a suite of multispectral imaging techniques. Technical imaging used in this way is not merely a recording tool but can provide evidence to answer questions raised by visual observation and can also select representative area for the elemental and molecular composition analysis. Then the third step is using in situ XRF and RAMAN spectroscopy. By using the combination of these analytical methods, it is able to picture a drawing with great details.
At the rest of the symposium, some example of metalpoint drawings from Low Countries and Germany were also discussed.