An adorned Black trumpeter encapsulated in posterity
“The shrill trump, the spirit- stirring drum"
Othello, Shakespeare (1603).
Hark ye John Blanke!
John Blanke a Tudor royal trumpeter is pictured as an integral part of King Henry the
IIIV’s procession. Hand on hip and cheeks puffed out, an adorned Black trumpeter
encapsulated in posterity. A grand parade was a regular occurrence to showcase the
wealth and grandeur of the royal courts. His appearance pervades the traditional
notion of Tudor Britain. The 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll is a painted almost
60 feet long and 143⁄4 inches wide. Blanke is a pillar, along with his fellow
trumpeters, at the front and the back of the roll.
Blanke wears a white shirt under a knee-length two-tone puff-sleeved tunic and a
pair of scarlet red hosiery. However, unlike the other riders, he wears a jade green
bonnet embroidered with illuminated gold thread in an elaborate pattern.
In the Tudor period, individuals wore their wealth. The type of cloth they wore clearly
signified social status. Sumptuary restrictions were placed on a range of fabrics
including cloth of gold, velvet, silks, furs and damask and even on buttons and
swords. Yet, on the 14th of January 1512, a certification was made by Henry VIII to
the King’s Great Wardrobe to deliver to Blanke, a gown of violet cloth, a bonnet and
a hat, as a gift for his marriage. Interesting, because Henry VIII and the rest of the
royal family were the only ones who were permitted to wear certain rich colours.
The image of Blanke in art history produces an aesthetic and experiential space of
possibility and fixed ideas of the history of Britain. The fragments of historic tapestry
open a space of experience towards transformations of knowledge, history and
experience of race, self, and community.
Associate Lecturer of Contextual Studies
London College of Contemporary Arts.
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