Star pistol with damascene work by María Jesús Berasaluze, PD model

1982 Piece of the month
This October the annual European Heritage Days will once again take place with the motto: “Heritage, women’s legacy”. This event aims to address the part of women in creating and transmitting our cultural legacy. As our contribution to the celebration, our chosen piece of the month is one of the pistols displaying damascene work by María Jesús Berasaluze from Eibar, exquisitely decorated with dragons, flowers and motifs of oriental inspiration. This master of the trade was taught by Lucas Alberdi at the Eibar Municipal School, going on to work in the profession for many years.
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This luxurious PD model pistol, made in 1982, is considered to be one of the smallest semi-automatic guns manufactured in the .45 ACP calibre. It is a single-action firearm with a 6-round magazine, based on the Colt 1911-A1 model. Enjoying huge popularity in the civilian market of the United States of America, where this type of calibre was regularly employed in personal defence weapons, in Spain the sales of this model were rather low, given that this calibre was not commonly used.

Damascening is a decorative technique originating in the Middle Eastern countries, consisting of inlaying precious metals into iron and steel. Considered in days gone by to be an essential activity of our arms manufacturing town, as well as to decorate weapons, this technique was used on all types of decorative objects such as vases, brooches, cigarette cases, etc…

With its background in the ataujía and niello techniques, the history of damascening in Eibar began in 1865 with Eusebio Zuloaga, who reinvented this technique which had disappeared from the peninsula with the expulsion of the Moors. Placido Zuloaga, who continued the process started by his father, not only perfected, but completely innovated the technique, giving rise to a production of fine quality and artistic merit.

This artisan industry was rapidly assimilated into our town. This meant that a certain sector of the population, men and women, were taught and trained to use the technique. Worthy of note in this historical-artistic context is the important work of the successive generations of women from Eibar who developed this artistic trade. One of the most relevant among them was Felipa Guisasola Gabiola (1852-1939), pioneer and reference of damascening from Eibar. A teacher and transmitter of the skill for decades, she enabled the training and apprenticeship of the future generations of female damascene workers from Eibar who finally, in 1989, had the opportunity to enter the Eibar School of Damascening, now closed.

By selecting this piece of the month, we want to prompt reflection on the leading part played by women down through the years in Eibar’s society, particularly in the creation and transmission of our cultural heritage. Similarly, we would like to highlight the pioneering connection of women from Eibar to industrial work and to the artistic production of damascening, in a changing political-social context, where women were often denied the possibility to attain important levels of participation in the different areas of social life.