Cast and chased gold medal of Mary I, by Jacopo da Trezzo
Brussels or London, about AD 1554-55
A royal wedding gift?
Jacopo da Trezzo (about 1514-89) was a specialist goldsmith and gem-engraver who made large, elaborately worked, cast medals. Originally from Milan, from about 1555 he was working in the Netherlands for the Habsburg King Philip II of Spain (reigned 1556-98), who had become the ruler of Milan in 1540, when his father Emperor Charles V invested him with the duchy. Jacopo accompanied Philip to Spain in 1559.
This medal depicts Queen Mary I of England (reigned 1553-58), who was married to Philip from 1554 until her death. Having her portrait made by a Milanese medallist was part of the process of presenting herself to the world as a Habsburg bride. At about the same time, the Habsburg court portraitist, Antonis Mor (about 1516-1576), was sent to paint Mary's portrait. Jacopo may even have gone with him to London; the images by the painter and the medallist are closely related.
The reverse of the medal is intended to suggest the peaceful state of England under Mary's rule, with a figure of Peace burning arms and armour, and banishing storm clouds. Beneath her are symbols of stability (the cube), unity (clasped hands), and justice (scales). Given Mary's terrible persecution of Protestants during her reign, for which she earned the byname 'Bloody Mary', it was hardly an accurate image.
The medal survives in many other silver and bronze examples. This example is the unique surviving gold specimen, which may have been commissioned by Philip as a gift to Mary.
P. Attwood, The currency of fame: portra-7, exh. cat. (New York, 1994)
E. Hawkins, Medallic illustrations of the (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1885)