Jacopo Nizzola worked as a sculptor, architect, goldsmith, jeweller, gem-engraver and medallist. Born at Trezzo near Milan in either 1515 or 1519, he worked in Milan for some time before being summoned in 1550 to Florence by Cosimo III de'Medici. In 1555 he travelled to the Netherlands to enter the service of Philip II, following the king to Madrid in 1559. In Madrid he worked in collaboration with Pompeo Leoni, and his medals show the influence of Leone Leoni. Da Trezzo died in Madrid, 23 September 1589.
This magnificent portrait medal of Mary Tudor, widely regarded as da Trezzo's masterpiece, was almost certainly commissioned as a compliment to Mary by Philip II, to whom she was married by proxy, celebrated at Westminster on 25 July, and at Naples on the 26 July 1554. It derives from the painting by Anthonis Mor of 1554 (see R. Strong, National Portrait Gallery; Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, London 1969, I, pp. 209-12, II, pl. 415). The great jewel on her breast is probably the one Philip sent her in June 1554, described as 'a great diamond with large pearl pendant, one of the most beautiful pieces ever seen in the world' (M. Hume, Two English Queens and Philip, London 1908, quoted in Strong, op.cit, p. 212). The portrait is also found as the reverse of a double-portrait medal, the obverse portrait of Philip, also by da Trezzo, dated 1555.
The medal is conventionally called 'The State of England', and the allegorical scene on the reverse is interpreted as emblematic of the state of the kingdom as viewed by the Queen's friends. Peace, with the accompaniments of durability, unanimity and justice, is destroying the arms of the turbulent, and pacifying the fears of the timid.
The other example of this medal in gold was in the collection of C. F. Huth Esq. of London, as recorded in the British Museum catalogue of 1885. Huth purchased it at Sotheby's, 19 July 1864, lot 164, from the collection of Lt. Gen. John Drummond of Dymock, Gloucestershire. It was inherited by his son Reginald Huth, and was sold with his collection of coins and medals at Sotheby's, 8 April 1927, lot 2. It was purchased by Spink for the British Museum for £480. It was by far the most expensive lot in the sale, the next being a gold medal of Elizabeth which fetched £180. The account was settled by the Goldsmiths' Company, and a formal presentation to the British Museum took place later that year. The medal is now on permanent display in the Renaissance galleries.