Silverpoint is a method of drawing with a piece of silver on a prepared surface. As the silver passes across the paper it leaves a thin deposit in the material used for the ground. A very sure hand is required, because no erasure is possible.
Very ancient in origin, this technique reached its artistic zenith in the Renaissance with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Bellini, Botticelli, Dürer and Cranach. Later with the availability of red chalk and graphite it fell into disuse, but was revived by the Pre-Raphaelites in 19th century England, and in recent times there has been a resurgence of interest particularly in the United States.
Artists in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance generally coated their paper with calcined bone in a medium such as rabbit skin glue. Ground seashells and egg shells were also used. Today the possibilities are endless: Chinese white watercolor, casein, traditional gesso, acrylic gesso and paint, as well as ordinary house paint. Metals besides silver are also useable and all of them (except for gold and platinum) tarnish, resulting in a considerable variety of colors that emerges sometime after the drawing is completed.
photo © 2008 Arzente Fine Art