HIS name may not be familiar to many nowadays, but, in 1550, the Milanese medallist and gem-engraver Jacopo Nizola da Trezzo was famous enough to be included in the first edition of Vasari’s Lives—although, in the second (1568), the author somehow divided him into two artists, calling the new one Cosimo, presumably because da Trezzo’s first patron had been Cosimo de’ Medici.
Later, Vasari wrote, he took service with Philip II of Spain ‘who retains him about his person... He has no equal in making portraits from life’. When Philip was King of England (1554–58), he commissioned da Trezzo to make intaglio medals of himself and his wife, Mary Tudor. Afterward, the medallist accompanied him back to Spain and died there in 1589. The reverses of the medals bear allegories of the utmost refinement that are highly regarded by numismatists.
The top price in Sotheby’s evening Old Master paintings session in December was £1,935,000, paid for a 23in by 16¾in portrait of da Trezzo (Fig 2) by Anthonis Mor (1516/17–76). The artists are likely to have been friends, as Mor had been appointed to Philip’s personal service only a few days before da Trezzo, an indication that he, too, was a favorite with the King.
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