Pick That Thing Up and Play! 15 Trombone Paintings from 17th Century Flanders

I recently added the top painting shown below, Hendrick de Clerck’s Minerva and the Muses, to the 17th century timeline (1st half).

The timeline now features 15 Belgian (or Flemish, if you prefer) paintings within the short span of approximately 30 years (c. 1610-c. 1640) that include trombone. They are similar in several respects. Several of the artists, most notably Rubens and Brueghel, are well known in art history. With the exception of Alsloot’s Procession (1615-16), which documents a literal event, nearly all of the paintings incorporate overt symbolism in the form of mythology and/or allegory. In terms of the trombone, one of the most striking things is that, while the paintings all include depictions of the instrument, none of them except the Procession actually show the trombone being played. The instrument is obviously acting as a symbol.


c. 1610—Belgium: Hendrick de Clerck’s painting, Minerva and the Muses, includes a trombone resting on some foliage in the foreground of the painting (see bottom-left of below image; click for larger image; public domain).

c. 1610—Antwerp, Belgium: Hendrick van Balen’s painting, The Banquet of the Gods, includes a trombone resting on the ground among several other instruments (see bottom right of below detail; public domain image).balen banquet detail

c. 1610—Apollon défié par Marsyas, a painting attributed to Frans Francken (1581-1642), includes a trombone resting on the ground (see below image; public domain) (National Library of France).Francken cropped

c. 1610—The Judgment of Midas, a painting by Flemish artist Adriaen van Stalbemt, includes a trombone. The trombone rests on the ground among several other instruments (see below image; public domain).

c. 1615—Belgium: Allegory of Music by Jan Brueghel the Elder includes a trombone among numerous instruments resting on the floor (see below image; public domain).bruegel detailbruegel

c. 1615—Antwerp, Belgium: Hendrick van Balen’s painting, Minerva among the Muses, on the cover of a virginal belonging to Queen Maria Kazimiera Sobieski, features a trombone among several instruments resting on the ground. The trombone is somewhat unusual because of the double loop of tubing on the back of the instrument, similar to the one portrayed by Brueghel and Rubens in Allegory of Hearing (1617-18). Queen Maria, originally from Poland, marries King James Stuart and spends most of her life in Rome. Hendrick van Balen, the artist, is a mannerist from the Antwerp School (see below image; public domain) (source: wikimedia commons).

1615-16—Brussels, Belgium: Archduchess Isabella visits Brussels and subsequently commissions several paintings to portray the related celebrations. Denis van Alsloot, painter for the archdukes of Brussels, depicts a “procession of guilds.” The “loud” instruments pictured, which include a trombone, cornett, curtal, and 3 shawms, presumably constitute the civic wind band of Brussels. They occupy a place of honor between the relics and the statue (Denis van Alsloot, Procession en l’honneur de Notre-Dame du Sablon a Bruxelles le 31 mai,Museo Prado, Madrid) (see below detail—click for larger image; Lesure 94-95; Forney, Antwerp 363; Whitwell, Baroque 181; Wangermée, vol. 1 241; public domain image).

c. 1617—Antwerp, Belgium: Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel collaborate on a painting called An Allegory of the Five Senses, which includes a trombone among several instruments in the foreground (see below detail; public domain) (Haeften, pl. 8). For other depictions of the trombone by the same painter, see c. 1610 (Banquet of the Gods), c. 1615 (Minerva among the Muses), and c. 1625 (Allegory of Music). 1617-1618—Antwerp, Belgium: Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens collaborate on a series of paintings on the subject of the 5 senses. The Sense of Hearing or Allegory of Hearing depicts a trombone among the many instruments in the room. All of the paintings in the series are “portrayed against a backdrop of princely collections that together seem to paint an idealized picture of the court of the Habsburg rulers of the Southern Netherlands, the archdukes Albert and Isabella, whose castles in and near Brussels are depicted in the distance” (see below detail; public domain) (Woollett, 91-92; Museo del Prado, Madrid). c. 1625—Belgium: A painting attributed to Jan van Kessel, Hendrik van Balen, and Jan Brueghel titled Allegory of Music features depictions of numerous instruments, including trombone (see below detail; public domain) (Wangermée vol. I, 292; Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Musée municipal).

c. 1625—Antwerp, Belgium: Hans Tilens’s painting, Concert des Muses, includes a trombone resting on the ground (see detail and lower-middle of full image below; public domain) (National Library of France).tilens detailtilens final

1625-1630—Belgium: The Royal Palace at Brussels, a paintingattributed to Sebastian Vranckx and Jan Brueghel the Younger, includes a depiction of a trombone. The trombone rests on the ground, along with a dulcian, near an ensemble of 2 voices and 3 strings that is informally performing outdoors (see below image; public domain) (Kenyon de Pascual, Two Contributions).

1639—Adriaen van Stalbemt, a Flemish Baroque artist from Antwerpt, paints Midas Listening to Apollo, which includes a trombone among several other instruments resting on the ground (see below image; public domain).

c. 1640—Antwerp, Belgium: Jan van Kessel’s Allegory of Hearing depicts a room with numerous instruments, including a trombone leaning against a stool (see below detail; public domain). The image is similar to a painting on which the artist collaborated with Hendrik van Balen and Jan Brueghel (see c. 1625, above).

c. 1640—Antwerp, Belgium: Flemish artist Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1614-54) paints Amor Triumphant among Emblems of Art, Science, and War, which includes a trombone in the foreground (see below image; public domain) (Wikimedia commons; Heinrich 507; National Museum, Stockholm).bosschaert best


  1. Some wonderful paintings! Especially like the one with “trombone (maybe a sackbutt?), cornett, curtal, and 3 shawms”. Very interesting!

    • Thanks, Jon! I like that one too. As I mention in the Timeline Intro (under “Terminology”), I don’t distinguish between sackbut and trombone–don’t see any clear distinction or particular benefit. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the paintings!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *