Trombone Bell Found: An Early Rear-Facing Trombone

A few years ago a made a blog post on “Bell-less Trombones.” As you can see if you read the comments to that post, some of the bells were actually found by an alert reader. However, one image that continued to be a mystery to me until recently was Joan Gascó’s painting, God the Father and the nine angelic choirs. Although the trombone slide was pretty clear, I just could not see anything that looked like a bell from the image I had. As it turns out I was probably looking in the wrong place. Last week I found a source that enabled me to view the trombonist in much closer detail, showing what I think is actually a rear-facing trombone. (For an extensive listing of rear-facing trombones throughout history, including some early examples, see Backward Advances: Rear-Facing Trombones Throughout History.) A color reproduction of the painting would obviously be very helpful, but no luck with that yet. So first, here’s the full image; the angel-trombonist is on the bottom-right (click to expand; public domain image):

gasco big cropped

Now here is a very close detail of the angel-trombonist. What I think is the bell, partially obscured by the halo, is circled in red:gasco dtl marked

Finally, here is a close view of several of the halos and the material above the halos, so you can see that the bell is not just part of a halo or something above or in back of the player:Gasco dtl halos

Also, it is worth noting that the source that enabled me to zoom in so closely, the French National Library, lists the artist as Gabriel Guardia (instead of Joan Gascó); see here. Regardless of which is the true artist, it would appear that the painting originates from Spain in the late 1400s/early 1500s.

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