Hendrick Goltzius, Man Wearing a Tasselled Hat, 1587. Pen and brown ink. 47.50 x 35.40 cm. Scottish National Gallery. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Gallery of Scotland, 2000.

EDINBURGH.- One of the earliest drawings in the national collection, Christ and Saint Peter by Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1420s, features in a new exhibition devoted to a versatile and beautiful drawing medium. 

Ink showcases works by a range of distinguished artists, including Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Guercino, Poussin, Goltzius and Alexander Runciman. The display features rarely seen works, as well as several that are being exhibited for the first time. 

Drawing in ink was prevalent in the art of ancient cultures, particularly in Asia. During the Renaissance, technical and stylistic experimentation with the medium saw it become a popular technique amongst European artists. The drawings on display show how, over the centuries, artists have exploited the qualities of this highly versatile medium to achieve an array of distinctive effects and to fulfil a variety of different functions. The works range from rapid sketches made as preparatory studies for paintings, to architectural blueprints and elaborate designs for prints; and from formal drawings and illustrative pieces, to sketches created for the artist’s own enjoyment. 

Exhibition Highlights

Hendrick Goltzius (1558 – 1617), A Man Wearing a Tasselled Hat, 1587, pen and brown ink. Goltzius was an extraordinarily talented draughtsman and engraver. Signed in full, this exceptional drawing must have been considered a finished work of art in its own right, possibly destined for a highly discerning connoisseur such as the Emperor Rudolph II in Prague. 

Gentile da Fabriano (c.1385 – 1427), Christ and Saint Peter, c.1420 – 1430, pen and ink on vellum. One of the oldest works in the collection, the figures have been created with incredibly fine strokes using a thin pen. Gentile was one of the leading Italian exponents of the transitional style known as the International Gothic.

William Henry Playfair (1789 - 1857), Northern Elevation of the Royal Institution, Edinburgh, 1832, Pen and black ink and brown wash. Playfair was one of Scotland’s most celebrated neoclassical architects and he designed many of Edinburgh’s finest buildings. This drawing is one of a pair of designs in the Gallery’s collection for the 1832 extension and remodelling of the Royal Institution Building, now the Royal Scottish Academy. Playfair’s planned changes included a statue of Pallas Athena above the front pediment. The statue was never realised and in 1844 the sculpture of Queen Victoria dressed as Britannia was installed instead;

Matthias Buchinger (1674 – 1740), An Altarpiece, 1728, Pen and brown ink on vellum. This remarkable and highly detailed drawing was made by an artist born without hands or feet and who was only twenty-nine inches tall. Despite his disability, which left him with only fin-like appendages for hands, he showed extraordinary dexterity in his drawings and engravings, and was also a talented musician and conjurer


Nicolas Poussin, A Dance to the Music of Time, c.1640. Pen, brown ink and wash on paper; traces of squaring on black chalk, 14.80 x 19.90 cm. Scottish National Gallery. Purchased by Private Treaty, with the aid of the Art Fund (Scottish Fund), the Pilgrim Trust, the Edith M. Ferguson Bequest and contributions from two private donors, 1984.