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Tasha Miner

Johann Christian Suess, My Bow's Maker

August 14, 2011 at 5:40 PM

When I googled my new bow's maker, I found this:

Süss, Johann Christian

According to Lütgendorff, Christian Süss worked as a maker of very simple bows in Mühlhausen, near Adorf, until he learned his craft "properly" from Chr. Friedrich Knopf. It was in 1852 that he was first mentioned as being a citizen and bow maker in Markneukirchen. The first bows of his that we have seen come from the time around 1870.

These bows have been stamped TOURTE and follow the same line of thought as the bows he later made that are stamped SUESS. Quite a few bows showing the same hand that are stamped W. H. HAMMIG LEIPZIG serve to round out the picture of his later working period. It is possible that an earlier connection to the Weichold workshop existed but it would be difficult to prove.

The first bow pictured here was made around 1870 and is stamped TOURTE, which simply indicates the model used. The head sits upright on the stick and comes forward a bit, in the style of a late F. X. Tourte, although the face plate surface has more of a curve towards the tip.

The sticks are usually octagonal, as one can see here, and the edges are clearly rounded. This stick, made of finely grained, dark pernambuco has been evenly cambered to the middle and is well proportioned. The combination of well balanced work on the stick and first class material have resulted in his bows having superior playing qualities.

The frog is striking, both in its clear proportions and precise working details. The typical characteristics of his work especially include the cleanly cut "U"-formed throat and the angled back surface of the frog as well as the one piece heel plate with lightly curved sides. The liner is usually secured with pins.

The button, which is generally somewhat narrower than the handle, has, with a few exceptions from Süss's later working period, a small "U"-formed collar cut. The screw has a coarse thread and is conically pointed at its tip

This second violin bow, which is stamped SUESS, was made in his late working period. In almost all its details it shows the same characteristics we have seen on the last bow. The head still sits upright on the stick, whereas the throat has been worked with a bit more of a curve to it. It is possible to see some file marks on the strikingly cut chamfers, but this has had no effect on the overall vividness of the head.

The beautifully planed octagonal stick has been made of lightly colored yellowish-brown pernambuco. One can often see this choice of wood in the bows made in his late working period.

The frog stands out through its harmonious proportions and its softened, yet still striking execution. The three-part button is once again narrower than the handle and has a short double collar cut.

The cello bow pictured here, again stamped TOURTE, follows the same pattern both stylistically and technically as the violin bows last described. The only real difference is in the more heavily rounded line of the peak of the head, which deviates somewhat from the Tourte model. The frog and button share the same characteristics of the violin bows.

The nickel mounted violin bow pictured here carries the brand SUSSE. The obviously rounded throat and other small details would indicate a probable collaboration with Süss's grandson, August Nürnberger-Süss.

He assisted his grandfather in the last five years of his grandfather's life; according to witnesses of the time, Süss's vision was in the process of failing in his old age.

Carl Süss (1860-1898), the son of Christian Süss, was also a bow maker; he emigrated early in his life to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he died in 1898.

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