Tromba marina Laurentius Tobi


The mim possesses eleven tromba marina. All from donations or purchases of private collections, they were already present in the collection before 1900. Two of them come from the private collection of Victor-Charles Mahillon, the museum's first curator, who seems to have had a particular interest in this instrument. No other objects of this type have been acquired since then. Among these tromba marina, the oldest dated is the one made in Namur by F. Houyet (1680), from the Fétis collection, a collection that is partly at the origin of the current museum. A special notice has already been devoted to this copy in July 2015 ( It is to her that we refer the reader regarding the history, functioning and sound characteristics of the instrument in general.

The present copy was in 1870 in the Van Isterdael-Gigault collection, "chef de musique" in Mons. His height is 1m86. Strongly flared at the bottom, the soundbox has no bottom. The opening in the center of the table therefore has no real sound utility. Its asymmetrical shape is highlighted by a decoration of scrolls and shells painted in gold.

Over the entire length, the centre of the handle is decorated with an ivory band. On the side,

five small mother-of-pearl triangles indicate the points of division of the string (two of them have disappeared). These are harmonics 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8. That is, by imagining that the empty string gives a low C, the indication of the notes G, C, E, G and C. At the very top, the attachment pin is equipped with a ratchet gear, in other words a gearwheel that a cleat prevents from turning in the opposite direction.

At the bottom of the instrument, the bridge rests on a bone plate, of orientalizing shape. A lateral ankle allows the rope to be moved away from its straight trajectory. By moving laterally, the string tilts the bridge slightly, which increases its vibration on the soundboard (see July 2015 instructions).

At the base of the handle, a decorative mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell plaque bears the signature of "L TOBI" and the date 1740, while on the right, on the table's wood, another name appears to have been written in ink, but only the letter "P" is still readable.

Laurentius Tobi, born around 1699 in Middelburg, died in Antwerp in 1759. His descendants include about ten trumpeters, at least seven of whom also play the trombone. Trained as a carpenter and trumpeter himself, he ran a hat and trimming business in the Kammenstraat in Antwerp before his death. A large number of musical instruments were present in his house at the time of his death. A tromba marina is mentioned in particular. This is the copy presented here. As a carpenter, Tobi may also have made wooden wind instruments (a wood lathe stood in his house when he died). In any case, he is the author of our instrument. What does he do with it? The instrument was quite popular at the time. In his "Traité sur la trompette marine" (1742), Jean-Baptiste Prin evokes its pleasant sound, which can be heard from afar, and is therefore ideal for outdoor play, dazzling or street music. He also evokes his presence on boats, played by bargemen or even sailors (even if the French expression "marine" would rather be a distortion of "mariana", trumpet of Mary, the Virgin Mary, because of its use in convents of nuns ). The sound carries away, making a pleasant effect from the shore, still according to Prin.

Laurentius Tobi is known to have been commissioned in 1752 to organize the music for the Hoogstraeten cavalcade, on the occasion of the centenary of the procession of the Blessed Sacrament. He also plays in Edegem for the solemn reception of the new Bishop of Antwerp, perhaps accompanied by his son Lorentius Jacobus, also a trumpeter.


SPIESSENS, G., « Laurentius Tobi (Middelburg, ca.1699-Antwerpen, 1759) stamvader van een Antwerpse muzikantenfamilie », in Bulletin des Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Bruxelles, T.LCCCII, Bruxelles, 2011, pp.227-237.

Tromba marina Tobi 1740
Signature at the base of the handle
Tromba marina Laurentius Tobi
Tromba marina Laurentius Tobi