Angel Trombonists Throughout History: 93 Images
In 1700 musician Johann Kuhnau wrote the following in his book, Der musikalische Quacksalber, reflecting the reputation of the early trombone as a sacred instrument:
"What do the angels, those heavenly and most perfect musicanti, play other than these? For if we encounter something about music in the Scriptures, we hear either of a trumpet or a trombone” (Kuhnau, 28).
"Experience shows that when, say, our municipal pipers play a church song on trombones only from the tower, we are moved beyond all measure and imagine we are hearing the angels sing” (Kuhnau, 133-134).
For more background on the trombone's roots in sacred music, as well as full citation of sources for the pictures, see Trombone History Timeline. The majority of the below images are not well-known in the "trombone world," but they deserve to be. They highlight an important symbolism present during several centuries of trombone history.
c. 1474—Asciano, Italy: Matteo di Giovanni’s The Assumption of the Virgin, the center panel of an altarpiece in S. Agostino, includes what may be an angel-trombonist along with several other angel-musicians. The instrument has what appears to be a slide but no visible bell (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Belán 111).
1488-93—Rome, Italy: In the Carafa Chapel of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the earliest reliable visual depiction of a trombone is painted: a fresco by Filippino Lippi entitled The Assumption of the Virgin. All of the musicians, including the trombonist, are angels (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Kurtzman, Trombe; Herbert, Susato 118; Partridge 118; Goldner 73).
16th century—Mexico: An anonymous painting in the church of San Esteban in Tizatlan, Tlaxcala, depicts a choir of angel musicians consisting of three shawms and a trombone. Facing them, on the opposite archway, is a choir of singers with guitar (see below image of shawms and trombone; public domain) (Starner 110).
16th Century—Veroli, Italy: A fresco in the ceiling of Basilica di Santa Maria Salome includes an angel-trombonist performing with cornetto and organ (see below image; special thanks to Paolo Fanciullacci).
c. 1500—Spain: A painting by Joan Gascó or Gabriel Guardia includes what appears to be a trombone-playing angel, grouped with two other wind-playing angels. The instrument appears to have a rear-facing bell, circled in the detail (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Ballester; French National Library).
1501-25—Portugal: Assumption of the Virgin (Assunção da Virgem), a painting attributed to Cristovão de Utreque, includes an angel playing trombone (see below image; public domain) (Museu Municipal Leonel Trindade).
1508—Gonesse, France: In what may constitute the earliest non-Italian visual depiction of the trombone (see also 1503-1529, above), a painted panel on the organ balcony at Abbey Eglise Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul features an angel-trombonist. Other instruments, all played by angels, include viol, shawm, crumhorn, harp, lute, and organ (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Fischer, Organology; Luri, Les Anges).
c. 1515—Lisbon, Portugal: Assumption of the Virgin, a painting that originally functions as the center panel of an altarpiece in Lisbon’s Convento da Madre de Deus, features numerous angel musicians, including a trombonist. The artist, referred to variously as Portuguese School, Mestre de 1515/Master of 1515, and Mestre de Madre de Deus/Master of Madre de Deus, may be Afonso Jorge (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon). Sources: de Oliveira Alves; Carter, Renaissance 345. Image sources: wikimedia; MatrizNet.
1516—Freiburg, Germany: Hans Baldung’s painting, Coronation of the Virgin, the central panel of an altarpiece located in the Freiburg Cathedral, includes an angel-trombonist among a group of angels playing wind instruments above and to the left of the Virgin (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Burkhard pl. 2).
1521—Bergamo, Italy: Lorenzo Lotto’s painting, Madonna and Saints, in Bergamo’s Santo Spirito, includes a depiction of an angel playing what is probably a trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Berenson, 51, pl. 119).
c. 1522-23—Munich, Germany: Albrecht Altdorfer’s Mary and Child in Glory includes a depiction of an angel trombonist among several other angel musicians (see detail and full image below; public domain; Winzinger 45) (thanks to Stewart Carter and Herbert Myers for help identifying this painting).
c. 1525—Setúbal, Portugal: An anonymous artist (possibly Jorge Afonso) paints Assunção da Virgem (Assumption of the Virgin) in the Church of Convento de Jesus. Among the angel-musicians depicted are 4 singers and 4 instrumentalists (3 shawms and a trombone) (see below image; public domain) (Markl 134; Gaio 251; Setúbal, Museu Municipal).
c. 1530—Musical Angels, a detail from Assumption of the Virgin, depicts angels playing trombone, trumpet, shawm, and pipe (or recorder). The artist, Frei Carlos, was a Flemish monk working in Évora, Portugal (see below image; public domain) (Lisbon, National Museum of Ancient Art).
1550-1556—Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico: A stone carving on one of the four posa chapels occupying the corners of the atrium of the church of the Franciscan monastery of San Miguel, Huejotzingo features two trombone-playing angels (see below image; public domain) (Viñuales and Gant 23; Donahue-Wallace 12).
1550-1599—A pen, wash, and ink drawing, now held in Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest (Museum inv. No. 2421), features a group of 7 angel musicians, including one playing trombone (see below image; public domain).
1551—France: After this date, an anonymous Nativity long attributed to engraver Jean de Gourmont is painted. The painting includes a cherub playing trombone (see detail below; public domain) (The Louvre).
c. 1566—Celle, Germany: The interior of Celler Schlosskapelle (the chapel of Celle Castle) is completely refurbished. It is probably at this time that an angel with trombone is added to the chapel (see below image; public domain).
c. 1570—An engraving by Franz Ignaz Brun from the Nine Muses series features an angel-musician playing trombone (see below image; public domain) (British Museum).
c. 1575—Pieter de Witte’s painting, David Singing God’s Praise, features trombone among a mixed consort of angel-musicians. The upper half of the painting (see below image) is meant to depict Saint Cécile and angels. The lower half, not shown, depicts angels performing with David (Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, photo A. Dingjan; Pieter Fischer 22) (public domain image).
1577—Pallanza, Italy: Aurelio Luini and Carl Urbino complete a fresco in the church, Madonna di Campagna, that includes an angel-trombonist (see below detail, public domain).
1589—Strasbourg, France: Martin Braun, a wealthy merchant, adds new upper floors and commissions carvings and paintings for Maison Kammerzell (also known as Kammerzellhaus), a famous half-timbered building across from the Strasbourg Cathedral. Among the numerous outside carvings of musicians—some with wings, some without—is an angel playing the trombone. Like many works of art of such age, the current carvings are the result of multiple restorations (see below image; public domain) (Pudlowski 50; special thanks to Valentin Guérin).
c. 1590—Milan, Italy: Aurelio Luini depicts a cherub playing trombone in his fresco in Milan’s San Simpliciano (see below image; public domain) (Kendrick, Sounds of Milan 77).
c. 1590—Ravenna, Italy: Giovanni Laurenti’s painting in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto includes an angel-trombonist performing along with harp, lute, flute, and recorder (see below image; public domain) (source: recorder home page).
c. 1590—The drawing, Coronation of the Virgin with Angel Musicians and All Saints, attributed to “Master J.N.,” a German or Netherlandish artist active during the late 16th century, includes an angel playing trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain) (National Gallery of Art; Washington, D.C.).
c. 1590—Rome, Italy: A fresco by Cristoforo Roncalli (Pomarancio) in the cupola of Sant’Andrea della Valle depicts music-making angels, including one playing trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain).
c. 1590—Loano, Italy: Battesimo di Gesu (Baptism of Jesus), a painting by Giulio Cesare Semino located in Chiesa di S. Agostino, includes a cherub playing trombone (see below image; public domain).
1591—Rome, Italy: Artist Ferrau Fenzoni paints the ceiling of the chapel of St. Francis in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Included among numerous angel-musicians is an angel playing trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Schwed, New Drawings by Ferrau Fenzoni).
1592-1601—Freibourg, Switzerland: The high altar in the Augustin Church includes a sculpture by Peter Spring depicting an angel playing a trombone (see image below; public domain) (Wold 82).
1593—Landsberg am Lech, Germany: Assumption of the Virgin, a painting by Pieter de Witte (also known as Pietro Candido and Peter Candid) located at the Marienaltar of the Heilig Kreuzkirche, includes and angel playing trombone (see below image; public domain) (Burresi 73-74; painting now located at Landsberg am Lech Neues Stadtmuseum).
c. 1595—Italy: Francesco Albani’s painting, Trinity with the Virgin Mary and Musician Angels, includes an angel playing trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Puglisi 96; Fitzwilliam Museum).
1598-1606—Valencia, Spain: Bartolomé Matarana paints a fresco of angel musicians in the the church of Real Colegio–Seminario de Corpus Christi that includes what are probably 2 trombones (see detail of one of trombones below; public domain) (Olson, Angel Musicians).
Late 16th century—Italy: Bolognese painter and engraver Francesco Brizio includes trombone among numerous angel-musicians in his study, Lunette with Musical Angels in the Clouds (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Bohn 532).
c. 1600s—Spain (?): An image attributed to Santacruz featuring an angel playing trombone bears a resemblance to a painting by Filippino Lippi (see 1488-93, above) that is considered the earliest reliable depiction of a trombone (see below image; public domain) (source: Gallica, the digital library of the National Library of France).
c. 1600—Milan, Italy: Camillo Procaccini’s fresco in Sant’Angelo features an angel playing trombone among a group of angel musicians (see below image; public domain) (source: wikimedia commons). For additional documentation, see Neilson, Camillo Procaccini: Paintings and Drawings, pl. 77.
1600s—Southern Netherlands: An anonymous 17th century drawing portrays five angel-musicians, including a trombonist, performing from a balcony or platform (see below image; public domain) (Paris, Louvre; Wangermée vol. 1 287). The drawing is almost certainly either a preparatory sketch for or a copy of Guido Reni’s fresco, Gloria d’angeli (see 1609, below).
1600s—Malvaglia, Switzerland: A fresco in the parish church of San Martino features a concert of angel musicians with a trombonist (see below detail; public domain).
1602-03—Italy: Guido Reni's Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin includes an angel playing trombone among the angel-musicians to the right of the Virgin Mary. If the museum's dates of 1602-03 are correct, the original location is probably Rome (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Museo del Prado).
1603-05—Frankfurt, Germany: Adam Elsheimer’s, The Exaltation of the Cross, part of an altar piece of several copper panels, portrays an angel playing trombone among a group of other angel musicians. Elsheimer, known for his variety of light effects, places the trombonist near the burst of light at the top of the painting (see detail and full image below; public domain: wikimedia commons; Städel Museum) (Klessmann).
1604—Azores, Portugal: Vasco Pereira Lusitano paints Coroacão da Virgem, in which he depicts numerous instruments, including two trombones, being played by angels (see below image) (Museu Carlos Machado, Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal) (public domain; source: wikimedia commons).
1606—Innsbruck, Austria: Paolo Piazza’s Adorazione dei Magi, an altarpiece painting in Innsbruck’s Kapuziner-kirche, depicts many angel musicians, including an angel trombonist (see detail below; public domain) (Panchieri 43).
1609—Rome, Italy: Guido Reni’s Gloria d’angeli, a fresco located in S. Gregorio Magno, Cappella di S. Silvia, includes two trombones (see details and full image below) (Cavalli, pl. 28 and 32; Pepper, pl. 30). A drawing pictured above (see 1600s—Southern Netherlands) is clearly either a preparatory sketch for or a copy of the painting.
c. 1610—Piacenza, Italy: A fresco by Lorenzo Gabrieri in the tribuna of the Duomo di Piacenza includes a depiction of an angel playing trombone with a diverse instrumental ensemble of other angel-musicians (see image below; public domain) (Brogi plate 203).
c. 1610—Loreto, Italy: Cristoforo Roncalli, sometimes known as “Pomarancio,” makes a set of preparatory drawings for a fresco he is preparing to paint on the cupola of the Basilica di Loreto (fresco now largely lost). Among the drawings are two angel-trombonists (see below 2 images; public domain).
1611—Pieter de Witte (also known as Peter Candid) includes an angel playing trombone in his drawing, Euterpe (see detail below; public domain) (Volk-Knüttel 102).
1612—Mombello, Italy: A fresco painted by Giovanni Battista de Advocatis in chiesa parrocchiale dell’Invenzione di Santo Stefano features a large group of angels playing musical instruments, including trombone (see below image; public domain).
c. 1615—Cislago, Italy: The Church of Santa Maria della Neve contains an anonymous fresco lunette featuring several angel musicians, including a trombonist. The trombone is particularly noteworthy because it is a rear-facing (sometimes called “over-the-shoulder”) instrument, an unusual configuration for this early date (see below image; public domain) (Morandi; Farioli).
1615—Milan, Italy: Bartolomeo Roverio’s painting at Santa Maria church, Chiaravalle Abbey, features an angel-trombonist among a number of other angel-musicians (see below image; public domain) (Die bemalten Orgelflügel 360).
1615—Reggio Emilia, Italy: Lionello Spada’s fresco in the cupola of the Chiesa della Ghiara includes depictions of numerous angel-musicians, including an angel playing trombone. The other instruments include harp, recorder, triangle, tambourine, cornetto, lute, and violin (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Quintavelle, plate 81; Monducci 130; Artioli, plates 8 and 12).
1615—Munich, Germany (?): Allegory of the Immaculate Conception, an engraving by Raphael Sadeler (1584-1632) after Peter Candid (also known as Peter de Witte and Pietro Candido), includes an angel-trombonist among a group of musical angels (see detail below; public domain).
1616—Bologna, Italy: Ludovico Carracci’s Paradise, an altarpiece painting located in the Church of San Paolo Maggiore, features an angel-trombonist situated prominently among a group of angel-musicians (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Komma 109; Emiliana 167).
1617—Milan, Italy: Bartolomeo Roverio includes three trombones among many angel musicians in a ceiling fresco at San Marco (see three details and full image below; public domain) (Perer 172).
1619—Derbyshire, England: An anonymous ceiling painting in the Heaven Room of Bolsover Castle shows Christ’s ascension, surrounded by angels. The outer circle of angels features angels with several different musical instruments, including trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain).
c. 1620—Imola, Italy: Visione di S. Cecilia e angeli, a painting by Giovanni Battista Bertusio (1577-1644) located in chiesa di S. Agata, includes a depiction of an angel playing trombone (see below image; public domain) (Negro and Roio 37).
c. 1620—Vicenza, Italy: A painting by Vincenzo Maganza in the church of San Stefano features 4 musical angels, including an angel-trombonist (see below image; public domain) (Die bemalten Orgelflügel 564).
c. 1620—Italy: Italian Baroque painter Bernardo Strozzi includes a putto holding a trombone in the painting, Santa Cecilia con le teste di Valeriano e Tiburtio (see below image; public domain) (source: The Digital Library of the National Library of France).
1620—Naples, Italy: Two frescoes by Belisario Corenzio at the church of Gesu Nuovo include angels playing trombone (see below 2 images; public domain) (Romano 10, 19).
1623—Varese, Italy: Cappella XI, cappella della Resurrezione, of Sacro Monte, is completed. The semicircular apse features a fresco by Isidoro Bianchi that includes what is probably a trombone among one group of angel-musicians (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Angelis 147).
1624-25—Milan, Italy: A red-chalk study by Camillo Procaccini for one of the ceiling compartments in the church of SS Paolo e Barnaba includes an angel-trombonist (see below image; public domain) (British Museum; see also Neilson, Camillo Procaccini, Paintings and Drawings, pl. 289).
c. 1625—Ascona, Switzerland: Giovanni Serodine paints Coronation of the Virgin with Saints in Ascona’s parish church. The image features a consort of angel-musicians playing two viols, cornetto, and trombone (see detail below; public domain).
c. 1625—Porto Valtravaglia, Italy: An angel-trombonist is included among a group of angel musicians in a fresco in the Cappella Porta of the church of Santa Maria Assunta (see detail below; public domain).
1625—Stadthagen, Germany: A painting by Anton Boten in the dome of the mausoleum at St. Martinikirche includes an angel playing a large trombone (see below; public domain).
1625—Salzburg, Austria: A fresco by Matthäus Ostendorfer located in the Nonnenchor of Kloster Nonnberg (or Nonnberg Convent) features three angel-trombonists (see below image; public domain).
c. 1640—Goslar, Germany: A painting at the church of St. Jakobi includes an angel playing trombone (see below image; public domain).
c. 1640—Genoa, Italy: A niche painting in Chiesa della SS. Annunziata includes an angel playing trombone (see below image; public domain) (Heck, Guitarists in the Balconies).
c. 1641—Prosto di Piuro, Valchiavenna, Italy: A fresco in the vault of the presbytery of chiesa dell’Assunta painted by either Giovan Battista Recchi or his brother, Giovan Paolo Recchi, includes a trombonist among several angel musicians (see below image; public domain) (Pescarmona 77).
1644—Florence, Italy: Il Volterrano (also known variously as Baldassare Franceschini and Franceschini Baldassare detto Volterrano) is commissioned to paint a lunette fresco in Florence’s Santissima Annunziata. He makes a red-chalk preparatory sketch for the painting (see below) that is quite similar to the final painting (see lower image, below). The images feature angels playing violin, trombone, and lute (public domain images) (Strozzi 332; Falletti 76).
c. 1645—Campione d’Italia, Italy: Isidoro Bianchi paints Gloria d’angeli, a fresco in the sanctuary of S. Maria dei Ghirli. The painting includes an angel playing what may be an awkwardly-rendered trombone, with a slide clearly visible but without the rear bow of the instrument extending behind the head (see detail and full image below) (Angelis 43). For a similar rendering by the same artist, see 1623.
1648—An engraving by Michael Frommer on title page from Currus Triumphalia by Andreas Rauch depicts four angels playing trombone among other angel musicians (see below image; public domain) (Naylor 217).
c. 1650—Mexico City, Mexico: The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, an oil painting by José Juárez, depicts a trombone-playing angel with several other angel-musicians (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Toussaint 227; Juárez 156).
c. 1650—Joachim von Sandrart, a German artist who works at various locations throughout Europe, makes a red chalk drawing of an angel concert that includes a trombone (see below image; public domain) (source: Deutsche Fotothek).
1650-51—Rome, Italy: In the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, a large fresco by Mattia Preti depicting the crucifixion of St. Andrew, includes a trombone-playing angel (see detail and full image below; public domain).
1651—Modena, Italy: Mattia Preti’s fresco, Gloria di Angeli Musicanti, located in the apse of San Biagio, includes a depiction of an angel playing trombone among many other angel musicians (see below detail; public domain) (Adani; Quintavalle plate 95).
1652-55—Preonzo, Switzerland: A fresco in the ceiling of Chiesa Santi Simone e Giuda features a number of angel-musicians, including a trombonist (see below detail; public domain).
1658—Schöningen, Germany: Jonas Weigel completes the organ for St. Vincenzkirche, which includes a sculpture of an angel-trombonist on the organ case. The angel-musician on the opposite side plays the cornetto (see below detail; public domain).
1661-66—Valletta, Malta: Italian artist Mattia Preti includes an angel-trombonist in his fresco located in the apse of San Giovanni (see below image; public domain) (photo by Alfred Gouder). For similar paintings by the same artist, see 1650-51 and 1651, above.
1668-93—Passau, Germany: Carpoforo Tencalla’s fresco in St. Stephan’s Cathedral includes depictions of angels playing various instruments, including trombone, tambourine, trumpet, and timpani (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Crombie 50). For additional views, see here.
1679—Certosa di Pavia, Italy: A fresco by Giuseppe Procaccini includes an angel playing what appears to be a trombone. Although the rear bow of tubing does not extend behind the player’s head as it should, the instrument appears to have a slide and the general configuration of a trombone (see below image; public domain).
1697-1703—Görlitz, Germany: Eugenio Casparini’s famous organ in the church of St. Peter und Paul features decorative sculpures of angels sitting atop the pipe structure. Each angel holds two instruments; two of the angels, sitting on opposite outside edges of the structure, hold trombones while playing trumpets (see below detail) (Sonnaillon 92).
Late 17th century-18th century—Au am Inn, Germany: A painting at the Klosterkirche Maria Himmelfahrt includes a depiction of an angel playing trombone among a cluster and angel musicians (see detail and full image below; public domain).
1700s—King David Playing the Harp, a painting from the German school, includes an angel holding a trombone (see below image; public domain).
1701—Lauffen am Neckar, Germany: The organ housing at the evangelische Kirche St. Regiswindis includes two sculptures of angel-trombonists, the angels apparently playing one-handed (see below detail; public domain) (Völkl 50).
1704—Tönning, Germany: A painted ceiling by Barthold Conrath at the Church of St. Lawrence depicts a group of angels playing wind instruments and percussion, including a jubilant angel-trombonist (see below detail; public domain) (Bowles, The Timpani 167).
1704-14—Saalfeld, Germany: Italian artist Carlo Ludovico Castelli paints a cherub playing trombone in Saalfeld’s Schlosskapelle (see below image; public domain).
1709—Monticelli d’Ongina, Italy: The church Collegiata di San Lorenzo is refurbished in Baroque style. It is probably at this time that an anonymous artist paints a fresco in the church depicting several angel-musicians, including a trombonist. This painting, along with the painted wood ceiling in Tönning, Germany (see 1704, above), is a relatively late example of trombone being depicted among angel-musicians (see detail and full image below; public domain) (Genesi).
1710—Verona, Italy: Felice Torelli, younger brother of composer Giuseppe Torelli, depicts an angel playing trombone in Immacolata Concezione, painted for the church of Sant’Orsola dei Mendicati shortly after the proclamation of the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. The image is noteworthy because no other musical instruments are depicted with the trombone. The artist includes the usual flat stays found on trombones of the time, but the slide appears to be somewhat longer than usual and the player’s grip on the instrument’s back tubing somewhat unorthodox (below; public domain image; Verona, Museo di Castelvecchio) (Chiodini; Oxford Art Online).
1714—Lüneburg, Germany: A major rebuild of the organ in Johanniskirche is completed by Matthias Dropa. One of several rebuilds and renovations after the organ’s original installation in 1551-53, it is probably this early 18th-century rebuild that ads the sculptures of what appear to be two angel-trombonists perched atop the organ pipes (see detail and wider view below; public domain).
1725-30—Vienna, Austria: A fresco in Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church) by Johann Michael Rottmayr includes an angel-trombonist (see below image; public domain).
1891—Booton, Norfolk, England: The extensive rebuild of St. Michael and All Angels church, overseen by the eccentric Reverend Whitwell Elwin, is completed. One of the nave stained-glass windows, completed by Alex Booker, includes a depiction of angels playing trombone and cymbals (see below image; public domain) (Wilson, North East Norfolk and Norwich: Norfolk 1, 409).
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