A Large Spanish 19th Century Tooled Bronze Overlaid Vase in the style of Plácido Zuloaga (1834-1910). The tall baluster form and ovoid body vase with decorated with an arabesque roundels and cartouches against a ground of swirling palmettes and geometric bands. Circa: 1880
Height: 55 1/8 inches (140 cm)
Born in Madrid in 1934 of Basque descent, Plácido Zuloaga was the son of Eusebio, a gun-maker and armourer in Eibar, where his son would come to live and work for the majority of his adult life. Plácido studied in Paris under Henri Lepage, gun-maker to Louis XVIII in 1848, whilst also accompanying his father to various exhibitions including London's Great Exhibition in 1851.
Plácido visited Paris again with his father in 1855, this time submitting some of his own works which included a trophy of birds chiselled in iron and an iron repoussé boar, both of which were highly praised in the catalogue. During the next five years further exhibitions were attended in Brussels (1856) and Vienna (1857-58), before Plácido took over the management of his father's factory in 1859. From then on, everything he produced was an object of art designed by his own hand and ornamented according to his own imagination.
Eusebio Zuloaga bought a house in Eibar in 1861 which would serve as Plácido's home, workshop and museum, and it would become the birthplace of the damascene industry in Spain. It was here that he received the first of his most important commissions, an iron table for the queen mother to present to Napoleon III. Future royal commissions such as this seemed to assure Plácido's prosperity, especially given the quick turnover of goods enabled by his growing factory of workmen. However, when Queen Isabel II was forced into exile in 1868, the possibility of further commissions of this nature all but disappeared, leaving Plácido heavily in debt.
As a last resort, Plácido sought out Alfred Morrison, whom he had met in London in 1862, whilst attending the South Kensington Exhibition, and who had recently inherited a fortune from his father, including the family estate at Fonthill. The following six years saw Plácido visit England on various occasions and execute a number of commissions for Morrison, for whom he would work for the next twenty years.
When Alfred Morrison acquired a London house in 1865 he commissioned Plácido to make a matched pair of large iron Alhambra vases profusely decorated in gold and silver damascene (which can be seen in the Khalili Collection, as referenced in Lavin 1997), and which are similar in style to these examples. Their theme, consisting mainly of flowers, leaves and intertwining vines, suggests 'eastern' design, and indeed may have been influenced by the designer and architect Owen Jones (b.1809) who also executed work for Morrison and who drew on both classical and Islamic styles.
It is almost certain that Plácido derived his vases from early engravings, possibly from two genuine pieces recovered from the Alhambra towards the end of the 18th century. It is entirely possible that he had never seen one until a genuine artefact was brought to Eibar, probably during the 1870s. These vases were certainly crafted in Eibar in the Zuloaga family workshop where they were also damascened in Plácido's style, possibly by one of his principal disciples, Teodoro Ybarzabal.