Classic Design: Furniture, Clocks, Silver & Ceramics

Classic Design: Furniture, Clocks, Silver & Ceramics

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 129. A Spanish damascened steel casket by Plácido Zuloaga, Eiber, second half 19th century.

A Spanish damascened steel casket by Plácido Zuloaga, Eiber, second half 19th century

Lot Closed

November 8, 02:36 PM GMT


10,000 - 15,000 GBP

Lot Details


A Spanish damascened steel casket by Plácido Zuloaga, Eiber, second half 19th century

the domed and hinged cover with the initials R M de E B opening to reveal an interior with rich burgundy-coloured cushioned lining, the top of the lock inscribed Po ZULOAGA, EN EIBAR., on four ball feet, with one key

13cm. high, 17.5cm. wide, 10cm. deep;

5 1/8in., 6 7/8in., 4 in.

This lot will be on public view in our New Bond Street galleries between 30th October and 7th November 2023.

This beautiful and finely-crafted casket is a fine example of the revival of the technique of damascening in nineteenth-century Spain, and more broadly of the high quality attained by many highly creative revivalist craftsmen during the era of Historicism. Damascening, generally a term used to describe the inlay of contrasting metals like silver and gold into an iron base, has a history that stretches back to Antiquity and its exact origins are disputed geographically. It is particularly associated with the Islamic world (notably Damascus) and it is the Islamic influence in Spain sees the introduction of damascening on the hilts of swords and other weaponry.

The revival of damascening in the nineteenth century coincides with a general uptake in interest in the decorative arts of the Gothic and Renaissance traditions that is terms Revivalism or Historicism. The burgeoning nationalism of the century certainly created a political appetite for so-called ‘national’ styles, but the curiosity of the Victorians for decorative techniques across the world saw, for example, Willam de Morgan revive the Islamic techniques of lustreware to great artistic and commercial success. Damascening in Spain is associated almost exclusively with the Zuloaga family, based in Eibar. This was initiated by Eusebio Zuloaga (1808–1989), who worked as gunkeeper to the Spanish monarchy: in order to restore the heavily damaged historical armour, he “had to perfect all the constructional and decorative techniques employed in Europe during the preceding centuries”.1 He created and exhibited fine damascened armour as early as the 1840s, and with his son Plácido Zuloaga sent works to the Paris Exposition in 1855: the exhibition guide writes that “one cannot praise too highly the arms and other metal objects presented by the Sres. Zuloaga” and that “damascene, etching and repoussé never had interpreters of such obvious and varied talent”.2 Under Plácido, the workshop expanded and continued to win acclaim, and an Alhambra vase was even presented by Alfonso XII, King of Spain, to the King of Portugal.3 After his death of Plácido, Eibar continued to remain a hub of production for damascened decorative art until the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

Several comparable examples to this casket can be found in the Khalili collection of Spanish Metalwork, including several with arched tops and highly similar ornament: see, for example, ZUL 14 and ZUL 3 in the digitised portion of the collection, and additionally ZUL 96, ZUL 7 and ZUL 13 in the printed volume on the collection.4 There is also a damascened casket in the collection of the V&A, bought directly from the Zuloagas in Madrid in 1866 (acc. no. 324-1866). Caskets by Zuloaga have also sold at auction, including at Sotheby’s London, 24th February 2016, lot 98, at Christie’s London, 6th July 2023, lot 20 and Christie’s Paris, 23rd April 2013, lot 203.

1 James D. Lavin, The Art and Tradition of the Zuloagas; Spanish Damascene from the Khalili Collection, Oxford, 1997, p.34.

2 Quoted in ibid., p.47.

3 Gregorio de Mujica, Monografía histórica de la Villa de Eibar, 1910, p.103

4 Lavin, op. cit. cat. 8, 9 and 10, pp.94-6.