Copying designs, either painted or drawn, in metalpoint served both ends as it honed the manual and mental abilities of the pupils, while also inculcating them in the master's manner and process of invention.
The durability of metalpoint drawings, on account of the layer of preparation that made paper more robust to wear, and the medium's resistance to erasure, underlies their popularity among 15th-century artists across Europe.
What 'Drawing in Silver and Gold' strikingly reveals is how the majority of Italian artists, in particular those from Florence where the manual and conceptual mastery of drawing was prized, never explored metalpoint drawing beyond how they had been taught to use it in their artistic training.
It was Leonardo who recognised that these qualities made metalpoint an ideal tool for drawing outside the studio.
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53) Here, a good point of reference for the technique of the British Museum copy is, in fact, Domenico Ghirlandaio's securely autograph drapery study of around 1481-82, done with the brush on reddish washed paper, highlighted with white gouache, over metalpoint, which is connected with the Calling of Sts Peter and Andrew fresco on the walls of the Sistine Chapel (Musee des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, no.
54) This type of ground is relatively transparent, and therefore it is quite different from the thick, dense preparation of the paper for metalpoint drawing; for an early description of metalpoint technique, see F.
77, 88, 95, 106 (with erroneous statement about the medium of the drawings; the paper in the Rennes sheet is just selectively tinted with pale reddish wash in the manner described above, not prepared with a thick ground as for the metalpoint technique).
72) The only possible example of such a drawing attributable to Verrocchio (of much debated authorship) is at best only partially by him, and exhibits a treatment of the ground that is closer to the preparation used for metalpoint drawing; this is National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, no.