Eusebio Zuloaga Gonzalez (1808-1898) was one of the finest metal workers in Spain's long history of artistic metalwork, arguably the very finest, and this incredible set is certainly emblematic of his talents. This is a clear example of how arms and armor and other "industrial arts" can be as beautiful and captivating as the other arts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art calls him "the most famous Spanish metalworker of the mid-nineteenth century" and contains prints of his complex designs. He and his family have been credited with preserving the art of Spanish damascening and trace their long lineage as arms makers to the 17th century, and he was also a central figure in the preservation of Spanish pottery techniques while head of the Royal Factory of La Moncloa in the 1840s. Eusebio Zuloaga was born in Madrid and studied under Ramon Zuloaga, his uncle, in 1822-1827 at Placencia de las Armas and then worked under his father, Blas Zuloaga (1782-1856), who was the armorer to the Spanish Royal Bodyguard and honorary chief armorer of the Spanish Royal Armory of Madrid (Real Armeria de Madrid). In 1830-1833, he worked in Paris and St. Etienne for the illustrious gunmaker LePage and then became a lieutenant armorer at the armory in 1834-1838 and established his own factory in Eibar in 1841. In the 1830s, he and his father were also involved in the apparently illicit sale of antique Spanish arms and armor on the international art market, including sales of items from the armory through LePage . Nonetheless, they remained very well-respected within Spain, and he received the title of royal gunmaker to Queen Isabella II in 1844 and was charged with refurbishing the arms and armor of the armory between 1847 and 1849 which would have included studying and repairing the intricate damascening on some of the items prior to the reopening of the armory in 1849 and would have provided plenty of inspiration for the intricate patterns and classical figures seen on this set. He won a silver medal at the Exhibition of Spanish Industry in Madrid in 1845. He presented his workshop's impressive artistic arms and wares at the most important international exhibitions in the mid-19th century, including The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London in 1851 (the first of the World's Fairs) where he won an award and Exposition Universelle of 1855 in Paris where he received a medal of honor. On June 12, 1856, he took his father's place as the senior gunsmith to the royal family. Placido Zuloaga (1834-1910), one of his sons, worked with his father and carried on the family's legacy of fine metalwork and intricate damascening, and his grandson Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945) was a highly successful painter. A similar set comparable to this set but with different motifs was presented to the Duke of Valencia c. 1847, and other sets from the late 1840s and the early 1850s are known with the same general construction but differing patterns providing an estimated date range for this pair of 1847-1855. These include the set from the first World's Fair which is illustrated in "The Industrial Arts of the Nineteenth Century..." This present set is entirely sculpted from steel, have elaborate damascene patterns along their whole lengths and covering essentially all of the metal surfaces, and are finished with gold and silver and deep blue providing brilliant contrast. Even the ramrods are metal and are engraved with floral patterns accented by silver pins. The patterns on the pistols and accessories consist primarily of inset armored Renaissance figures with gold beading and silver wire borders, gold scrolls between the figures, and some mask designs such as the satyrs on the ramrod ferrules and masks within the scrolls on the bolsters. The spurs on the scroll and floral pattern sculpted trigger guards and the barrel underibs have overlapping patterns accented by gold beads similar to scale armor from antiquity, and the distinctively shaped pommels which resemble the falcata swords of ancient Iberia. See the falcata in the MET collection (Accession Number: 32.75.260) for reference. The accessories include a ladle, turnscrew, nipple wrench, ball mold, and box and have complex and bulbous shapes.
Excellent overall. The set as a whole retains essentially all of the original gold and silver and the vast majority of the original blue, including within the barrels. There is some light fading of the original blue in the backgrounds and on the side panels of the box. The individual items exhibit essentially only minor wear consistent with their age and careful handling. The designs remain crisp throughout. The pistol remains mechanically excellent.
Excellent with nearly all of the original gold and silver, some light fading of the blue finish in the backgrounds, and minor age and light handling related wear. Mechanically excellent. The artistry of this set is apparent at first glance. The more you examine them the more you can truly appreciate the finer details. The fact that it is the work of one of Spain's most significant metalworkers and key figures in their damascening tradition certainly adds to its interest and value. It will rightly deserve a prominent place in any public or private collection. Provenance: the Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.
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