This breathtaking sword was displayed at the Spanish Royal Armory of Madrid (Real Armeria de Madrid) from c. 1856 until the late 19th century and was part of a larger panoply containing two swords, three daggers, a pair of pistols, and accessories listed as "Trophy Formed of Different Weapons by E. De Zuloaga" (Plate 199) in "Spanish Arms and Armour" by Albert F. Calvert. It is unclear if these items were property of the Spanish Royal Family or the armory or if they were displayed on behalf of their maker: Eusebio Zuloaga Gonzalez (1808-1898), one of the finest metal workers in Spain's long history of artistic metalwork, arguably the very finest. Some of his greatest creations were swords, and this impressive piece would certainly rank among his finest work. The Metropolitan Museum of Art calls him "the most famous Spanish metalworker of the mid-nineteenth century." 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. Zuloaga studied under Ramon Zuloaga, his uncle, at Placencia de las Armas and 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. He also trained in France and Belgium in the early 1830s, including under LePage. He received the title of royal gunmaker to Queen Isabella II in 1844 and won a silver medal at the Exhibition of Spanish Industry in Madrid in 1845. He was assigned to refurbish the arms and armor of the Royal Armory between 1847 and its reopening in 1849. 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 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, carried on the family's legacy of fine metalwork and intricate damascening after working with his father. Given this sword is believed to date to c. 1850-1855, it is possible Eusebio and Placido Zuloaga developed this sword as a father and son duo. Zuloaga's experiences within the Royal Armory would have been full of suitable inspiration for this extravagant sword. The overall artistic designs of the sword reflects the architecture, sculpture, and other arts of the 16th century and the Renaissance. See for example how the hilt relates to the damascened iron thrown ("Kunstkammer") by Thomas Rucker (c. 1532-1606) that was owned by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) and now resides in Longford Castle in England and the parallels seen between the scroll patterns and sculpting and the work of Filippo Negroli of Milan in the mid-16th century. Zuloaga travelled widely in his career and would have been particularly intimately familiar with the designs contained within the Spanish Royal Armory and have seen other works from around Europe either in person during his travels or illustrated in period sources. The material within the armory alone would have been immense as can bee seen in books on the collection such as "Spanish Arms and Armour" by Albert F. Calvert. The grand architecture from the second half of the 16th century in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe often included classical Greco-Roman or Christian figures standing or in relief as can be seen at the Catedral de la Asunción de Jaén in Spain and the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy, and elsewhere. While the entirety of the sword is impressive, the hilt is particularly so. Its basic overall shape recalls earlier Spanish rapiers, but the overall ornamentation is astounding. The central motif on the hilt is a classical Greco-Roman battle scene within a panel with raised scroll borders that disgorge from a golden grotesque mask and is flanked by an allegory of Justice or one of the related goddesses to the viewer's left depicted blind folded and holding her famous scales and a sword and another female figure on the viewer's right with a laurel crown and a shield to her right, possibly representing Courage or another virtue. The up and down turned quillions feature additional sculpted figures. The right figure is Hercules wearing the pelt of the Nemian Lion and carrying a club, and the left figure is believed to be Achilles. The smaller inner guard has Cupid. The grip has Minerva/Athena at the center complete with a gorgoneion emblazoned shield and an allegory of Faith on the opposite side holding a cross and Bible possibly inspired by "Triumph of Faith over Idolatry" by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (1646-1713). The pommel has Pegasus on the sides. The hilt also consists of scrollwork in the metal accented by gold wire inlays along the raised edges and panels of damascened interlaced scrolls. The sword's blade is 32 3/4 inches long and features a shallow series of notches and barbs along the back edge for the first 9 inches and 14 inch long elaborate panels of gold backed, intertwining floral scroll patterns terminating in spires on the base of the blade. The scabbard has beautiful damascene patterns like the hilt, sculpted interlaced scroll patterns accented by gold wire inlays and also features sculpted figures. Prudence/Prudentia forms the projecting hook and is depicted looking over her shoulder in a mirror above a boy holding a laurel wreath and a crown, and the opposite side has a figure with a sword and one arm around a column over a boy pouring out a jug which would relate to Temperance. The drag has figures on each side: one a mostly nude man with a sword and lion and the other dressed in classical armor. These almost certainly represent additional Greco-Roman or Christian figures.
Excellent overall with nearly all of the original gold and deep blue-brown finish remaining, small spots of flaking, mostly bright blade with some slight spotting and minor wear from occasionally being removed from the scabbard, a few minor marks and scratches, and distinct designs throughout. This sword is truly outstanding and is certain to be a captivating addition to any private or public collection. Provenance: displayed at the Real Armeria de Madrid, Sotheby Parke Bernet July 9, 1974, Lot 129, and the Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.
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