Portrait of a Woman, Thomas Wilmer Dewing
In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the zoom or download icons under the image. Original sheet is roughly 22 x 19 in. (57 x 48 cm).
The portrait is drawn in silverpoint, the most prevalent of the variations of metalpoint drawing. The artist draws with a thin wire of the soft metal — embedded in wooden rod or metal holder — usually on paper prepared with gesso or other coating. The initial gray metal lines gradually turn to a soft brown on exposure to air over a period of months.
The result is a uncannily delicate line, ghostly and etherial in the case of Dewing’s tonal approach.
Like ink drawing, there is no easy method of correction, and the lines as they are put down will remain.
From the placement of the head on the paper, it looks as though Dewing was allowing room to draw at least the head and shoulders, if not a half-length portrait. Perhaps he was unable to finish for one reason or another, or perhaps he decided to stop at the point of achieving the exquisite beauty of the drawing in its current state.