oil painting » Painting techniques » Brass Rubbing
Brass rubbing was originally a British mania for
reproducing brasses commemorative embossed brass reliefs found
in church memorials from the 14th and 15th centuries onto paper.
The concept of recording textures of things is more generally called
making a rubbing. What distinguishes rubbings from frottage is that
rubbings are meant to reproduce the form of something being transferred,
whereas frottage just desires to use rubbing to grab a random texture.
A process related to rubbing a pencil over a piece of paper placed on top of a coin. In the "old days" rubbings were most normally made using the equivalent of what we would call "butcher's paper" [a 22–30-inch-wide (560–760 mm) roll of whitish paper] laid down over the brass and rubbed with "heelball", a waxy glob of black crayon once used to shine shoes.
Nowadays most brass-rubbers purchase individual paper rolls of heavy-duty black velvety material, and the crayons are silver or gold (and other colors). Sometime after the early 1970s the authorities determined that you could no longer rub the original brasses since they were being worn away by the rubbing process, and the lack of care on the part of some individuals. Brass-rubbing centers had previously appeared around the U.K. and now they became the prime source for rubbings. It is significant to note that one now rubs a replica brass, not the original. Replicas are frequently not the same scale as the original so a prospective buyer of a rubbing should investigate to see whether a rubbing is of an original or a replica. Miniature versions of brasses are also being presented for sale without specifying that they are not created to the original scale.
Most brasses can be rubbed without causing injure to the brass itself. The exemption is floor-set brasses where the pitch that helps secure the brass to the stone has perished, leaving a space between the brass and the stone. This condition can be detected by beating the brass in various surfaces and listening for a 'hollow' sound. Brasses in this condition should not be rubbed, because the pressure of rubbing causes the brass plate to flex, stressing the metal and eventually leading to cracking of the brass plate.
Rubbing is what you did as a child when you located a scrap of paper over a coin and brought up the coin's design by covering the paper with pencil strokes. Using different resources, this technique can be used to reproduce the relief design of any surface. It is an ancient technique which originated in the Orient and which, like etching and other printing techniques, is employed by artists today to made original prints.
Brass rubbings are created by laying a sheet of
paper on top of a brass and rubbing the paper with graphite, wax,