Original Baroque Bows

Edited: November 28, 2019, 7:05 AM · Are there any original Baroque bows from the 17/18th centuries still in playing use, or are they now safely in museums or the like? To put it more broadly, can bows, of whatever genre, last as long as violins?

Replies (7)

November 28, 2019, 7:18 AM · From what I understand, there are some, albeit very few. The ones there are will probably be in museums. I imagine it would be easier for bow makers to get a look at them there
November 28, 2019, 7:38 AM · Many modern baroque makers use historical descriptions and paintings as well as referencing several bows in museums. There may be a very small number of original bows in service today, but I have no clue to what that number might be like.
November 28, 2019, 8:15 AM · Pribably less than 10
November 29, 2019, 10:51 PM · I have an English one from the mid 18th c. It plays exceedingly well
playing classical music. Since The ivory frog wss deteriorating, I had a copy made by Stephen Marvin. I have lent the bow to various makers to take measurments.
November 30, 2019, 2:00 PM · Thanks for the comments, everyone. They confirm what I suspected.

It occurs to me that using historical descriptions and paintings for referencing could assist modern bow makers in making little design changes, hopefully for the better. A baroque bow surely cannot be a "one size fits all" product.

Edited: December 1, 2019, 10:59 AM · Hi Trevor,

My understanding is that there are few examples around, many are in dealer collections or museums, or survive only in part.

Drawings and paintings can be deceptive. For example, Paganini is known to have used early examples of the modern bows (including a Sirjean) early on, but many drawings/paintings show him with a hammerhead/Cramer-style bow.

The other thing with early 18th century bows, and really until the 19th century, is that bows tended to be regional in style and so was the style of playing. There seems also to have been quite a bit of experimentation until the Tourte style became sort of accepted as the standard, and lengths in particular seem to have been highly variable.

If you are interested in some information, Bruce mentioned Stephen Marvin and his site has some good information. Here is the link: https://www.historicalbows.com/. Tarisio also features some actual surviving example of 18th century bow in its articles on its site. Here are two links which include photos: https://tarisio.com/archet-revolutionnaire/historical-introduction/ and https://tarisio.com/archet-revolutionnaire/kai-koepp-french-or-german-bows-for-beethoven/

Hope this helps...


P.S. One of my greatest experiences of all time having the privilege of being lent a Tourte père hammerhead bow for a Mozart project about 15 years ago from a private collection. Amazing, and I was surprised how much stiffer and different in feel it was from many modern versions of such bows.

December 2, 2019, 2:41 PM · Part of the issue here will be dating the bows. There are actually quite a few original bows being used by baroque musicians, especially around Europe, but they are often transitional types. Then one has the fun of discussing whether a bow made after 1750 clearly intended to be in the 'old style' is truly a baroque bow. In the end I think the fog of professional historical performance may be as bad as the fog of war. :-)

There were some really interesting bows in that Tarisio show. Some makers were there taking measurements, but sadly the catalog doesn't have any.

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