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corilon violins

The violin bow: a brief depiction of its history


The history of the violin bow is the history of a violin's sound. A brief historical overview


The history of the violin bow is a frequently neglected chapter in the annals of violin making. To put it in other words, it is a central chapter in the history of instruments, given that it is the very history of the sound of a violin. The violin bow is what first brings the voice of a violin to life, and the composition of the stick, frog, head and horsehair reveals just as much about the instruments of a given era as the angle of a violin's arch or the violin varnish. The development of the violin and the violin bow has always followed a recurring pattern of musical and artisanal/technical factors mutually influencing one another. Every significant advance in violin making either was followed by new musical standards or created the conditions necessary for them to evolve – but at each phase, this progress could not take place until a new violin bow model emerged. With each new step in the history of making violin bows, the promise of new qualities of sound became reality. Those who wonder why the violin became a leading instrument in Europe's musical tradition can find solid answers by taking a closer look at the violin bow. We have outlined the history of the violin bow in a short series of three introductory articles:


  • Part I: The Baroque violin bow

  • Part II: The Classical violin bow

  • Part III: The modern violin bow


  • Baroque violin bow, Motek Leeuwarden, circa 1995 - frog

    Baroque violin bow, Motek Leeuwarden

    Provenance: Altea
    Maker: Motek Leeuwarden
    Weight: 56.2 g
    Year: approx. 1995

    Classical French bow, circa 1820 - frog

    French Classical bow, circa 1820

    Provenance: France
    Maker: Ecole de Gaulard
    Weight: 52.4 g
    Year: approx. 1820

    Joseph Alfred Lamy Père, violin bow 1900 circa

    Modern violin bow, J. A. Lamy Père

    Provenance: Paris
    Maker:J. A. Lamy "Père"
    Weight: 59.4 g
    Year: approx. 1900





    Related articles:

    The bow makers of Markneukirchen

    H. R. Pfretzschner – a biographical sketch

    François Xavier Tourte, founding father of the modern violin bow

    Ludwig Bausch: the "German Tourte"

    Morizot père et frères: The short history of a great family of bow makers

    Eugène Nicolas Sartory – a modern classic among bow makers

    Bazin – The turbulent history of a great violin bow maker dynasty (two parts)

    Joseph Alfred Lamy Père – a key figure in modern bow making

    James Tubbs: the classic name in English bow making

    John Dodd – a legend of oyster shells and silver spoons

    New arrivals in our catalogue
    • Atelier Paul Bisch: French violin, Guarnerius model, 1934
    • Modern French soloist viola, Jacques Camurat, Paris 1963
    • Roger Lotte: French viola bow, Mirecourt
    • 3/4 - old German 3/4 violin after Stradivarius, dark tone
    • 3/4 - Old German violin after Jacobus Stainer, clear strong tone
    • Outstanding antique French violin, approx. 1880, large, warm tone
    • Fine French Paris master violin, Georges Defat, No. 87, 1942
    • Excellent French violin bow, Mirecourt approx. 1920
    • TONALLY OPTIMIZED: Interesting Southern Italian violin, early 20th century
    • 3/4 - antique French 3/4 violin, probably by JTL
    • 3/4 - antique French 3/4 violin, Mansuy
    • Old German violin bow Markneukirchen, Mathias Thomä
    • Markneukirchen violin bow of the 1950ies, Bausch model, bright, fluid tone
    • TONALLY IMPROVED: Good Schönbach viola, Ferdinand Fischer, 1935
    • 3/4 - warm and resonant sounding French 3/4 violin
    • Old French violin bow, J.T.L. "Sarasate maitre" model
    • Roger François Lotte, fine French violin bow (certificate J.F. Raffin)
    • Elegant Italian violin, Luigi Vistoli, Lugo 1943 (certificate Hieronymus Köstler)
    • Contemporary Italian violin, Cremona, Renato Superti (certificate Stefano Conia)
    • Lightweight, softish violin bow, silver mounted, Germany
    • Fine French master violin, Daniel Moinel, Paris, 1960's
    • Probably English violin bow, silver mounted, Hill model
    • Albert Nürnberger: Powerful silver mounted violin bow
    • Fine Italian viola by Marcello Martinenghi, 1949 (certificate Eric Blot)