early 20th century
iron, gold damascene
9 x 8 x 1.5 cm
This almost square case has a fully hinged back and a spring catch with a button release. In the centre of its lid is a circular design with a repoussé profile bust. A scalloped band passes diagonally across the lid, separating it into two decorative areas while at the same time forming a portion of the border of the central circle. The two fields surrounding the circle are filled with renacimiento ornament incorporating beasts of griffin or wyvern type but seemingly comprised of foliage. These are surrounded by exotic flowers and leaves. Here the central bust represents not a generic cabeza de moro, but rather a classical head of Hercules wearing the skin of the Nemean lion. This is more carefully sculpted than the ordinary ‘Moor’s head’ which is encountered so frequently. The diagonal band and the border of the circle, executed in two colours of wire, add a discordantly modern touch to the composition. Seemingly inspired by art deco, they bring the composition into the period 1925-30.
J. D. Lavin (ed.), The Art and Tradition of the Zuloagas: Spanish Damascene from the Khalili Collection, Oxford 1997, cat. 60, p. 168.