Parshat Ve’etchanan

Silverpoint on parchment, 2012

Artist: Sherry Camhy,  USA

“Moses” is drawn with silver and gold. The process is a very old one. It is known as Metalpoint. Long before graphite and paper were invented, precious metals were used to make finely detailed drawings on specially prepared surfaces such as parchment and vellum. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci created exquisitely delicate studies using metalpoint. Those images have grown more beautiful with age and stood the test of time. Metalpoint is a slow and difficult medium to work with. The image must be built with unyielding even lines. The darks and lights are not easily developed or easily erasable. Metal marks are invisible on paper but appear like magic on certain surfaces. The secret is in the formula for the preparation of the surface that makes the drawing visible, the lines permanent and long lasting.

In order to create “Moses”, the parchment was first carefully flattened, then stretched and artist’s tape was used to attach it to a board. Seven layers of a very thin mixture of polymer emulsion, containing titanium white, calcium carbonate and rabbit’s skin glue, was spread onto the parchment. It was gently re-stretched and lightly sanded after each of the layers were completely dry.

The image of Moses was drawn with sterling silver and fourteen carat gold. Small lengths of various widths were cut, carefully shaped and placed in holders. Creating the highlights in the drawing of Moses’ hair and beard presented a challenge. White chalk would not work. It smudged and smeared. It was not possible to create the lights by erasing. Instead, I used sharp metal points of various sizes and shapes to score marks into the soft surface of the parchment where the lights would be needed. The silver and gold lines used for the hair were kept on the higher level of the surface leaving the remaining untouched incised places to become the crisp, visible, light touches.

Gold is rarely used in metalpoint. Lines made with gold are not golden. They are, however, distinctly cooler and darker than those that can possibly be made with silver. The gold marks remain the same value and color forever. The sterling tarnishes to a golden amber color over time. “Silverpoint” is the most frequently chosen of the Metal point mediums because of the way its luminous color slowly tarnishes becoming ever more elegant with time. The Image of “Moses” will evolve into more subtle glowing nuances as the years pass just as the example of the life of Moses has endured and grown in the hearts of the Jewish people and the history of the world.

About Sherry

Sherry Camhy’s work is in the permanent collection of the Israel Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Telfair Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. Her work has been reviewed in ArtNews and International Artist. She is the author of Art of the Pencil and a reviewer for Fine Art Connoisseur. Sherry is on the faculty of New York University and The School of Visual Arts.

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