In the year 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).
c. 1500—Söhlde, Nettlingen, Germany: A painting in the Evangelische Pfarrkirche St. Maria features an angel trombonist. See below image; public domain (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg).
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).
16th century—Toledo, Spain: A fresco located in the courtyard called “de la Mona” at the Convent of las Comendadoras del Apóstol Santiago features numerous angel musicians, including an angel playing an instrument diminutive enough in proportion to its player to be an alto trombone or smaller (see detail below; public domain).
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).
c. 1550—Verona, Italy: A painting of angel musicians by Domenico Brusasorzi (also called Domenico Brusasorci and Domenico Riccio) in the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Organo includes what is probably a trombone. Although the bell section is longer than the slide, the slide is still quite long and is gripped like a slide of the time; also, the rear bow of tubing extends behind the player's shoulder (see below image; public domain) (Paganuzzi, La Musica a Verona, fig. 307).
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. 1552—Verona, Italy: A fresco by Domenico Brusasorzi (also called Domenico Brusasorci and Domenico Riccio) in the church of Santo Stefano depicts angel musicians, including a trombonist, performing from a balcony (see detail below; public domain) (Paganuzzi, La Musica a Verona, fig. 132). Special thanks to Michele Magnabosco.
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).
1583—Leipzig, Germany: Tabulaturbuch Johannes Rühling includes an image of an angel playing trombone (see below image; public domain) (special thanks to Suzanne van Os).
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).
Early 1600s—Bologna, Italy: A painting in the Oratorio dei Battuti of Santa Maria della Vita features a number of angel musicians, including what appears to be a partially-obscured trombone player (see below image; public domain). Special thanks to Bruce Dickey.
Early 1600s—Bologna, Italy: A painting in the Oratorio dei Battuti of Santa Maria della Vita features an angel playing what appears to be a trombone. One possibility is that part of the original bell of the instrument may have been turned into an extra bow of tubing by a restorer (see below image; public domain). Special thanks to Bruce Dickey.
Early 17th century—Fiegni, Fiastra, Italy: Incoronazione della Vergine, a fresco in the apse of the Sanctuary of the Blessed Ugolino, or Beato Ugolino sanctuary church, includes an angel playing trombone (see detail and full image below; public domain).
1600s—Pastrengo (Verona), Italy: A fresco in Sanctuario di Santa Maria di Pol depicts an angel trombonist (see below image; public domain) (special thanks to Michele Magnabosco).
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—Siena, Italy: Pietro Sorri’s painting, “Incoronazione delle Vergine” in the Chiesa di San Sebastiano in Vallepiatta includes an angel playing what appears to be a trombone with an oddly-angled bell (see detail below; public domain) (special thanks to Bruce Dickey).
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.