Hat-jewels with figurative scenes were a customary part of fashionable court dress throughout Western Europe in the mid-sixteenth century. These miniature sculptural reliefs, enamelled and set with gemstones, are frequently documented in princely collections, often recorded as gifts. The vogue for Biblical scenes lasted longer in Spain than in other countries. This jewel has been traditionally associated with Don John of Austria (1545-78), brother of King Philip II of Spain. He achieved international renown as the successful Admiral-in-Chief in the naval victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto (1571), and gained infamy through his dissolute life thereafter.
A playing card has been used as packing between the relief and the engraved gold disc at the back, which records the jewel's early history.