Joseph Alfred Lamy père: a key figure in modern bow making

Joseph Alfred Lamy père: on the life and work of the great Parisian bow maker and student of Voirin

Joseph Alfred Lamy is one of the most important masters of modern French bow makers; after Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (1798-1875), he was one of the main craftsmen to critically re-examine the epoch-defining work of François Xavier Tourte (1747/48-1835). Without wanting to detract from the accents that Joseph Alfred Lamy's bows created, Joseph Alfred Lamy is also very essential as the figure who built a bridge from Tourte to the twentieth century. Above and beyond their relevance in the history of instruments, Lamy père's creations fulfil the exacting standards of today's musicians. This makes pieces marked “A. Lamy à Paris” some of the most sought-after historical bows ever. 

Joseph Alfred Lamy père was born in 1850 in Mirecourt; he is referred to as Lamy père to distinguish himself from his son, Hippolyte-Camille Lamy fils (1875-1942). At the tender age of 12, he began his apprenticeship in the atelier of Charles Claude Nicolas Husson. From 1868 on, he worked for the esteemed instrument manufacturer Gautrot in Château Thierry, where he is thought to have met Joseph Voirin; this connection may have contributed to Lamy père starting work at the atelier of François Nicolas Voirin (1833-1885) in 1876. After Voirin's death in 1885, Joseph Alfred Lamy opened his own workshop in the Rue du Faubourg Poissonière, Paris; his son took over after Lamy Pere's demise in 1919. Lamy's bows were awarded silver and gold medals at exhibitions in Paris in 1889 and 1890.

Joseph Alfred Lamy père initially followed in the footsteps of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume like Voirin, whom he described as his real teacher. J. B. Vuillaume in turn had analysed Tourte bows and incorporated his findings into the excellent pieces he produced. Due to Vuillaume's great success as a violin maker, however, Vuillaume soon stopped working on violin bows and delegated the task to employees such as Voirin. Yet unlike Voirin, who wanted to create as light and slender a bow as possible, Joseph Alfred Lamy focused his efforts on the stick and frog during his later years from 1889 onward. Lamy's bow model set standards in the general trend toward heavier bows, a characteristic which strongly influenced French bow making in the late 19th century. His most important student and colleague is Eugène Sartory (1871-1946), who is regarded as a classic in the field of 20th century bow making.

 

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