French Bows in the English Style

06 Feb 2023

Yannick Le Canu examines a viola bow by Charles Nicolas Bazin from the Norman Rosenberg Collection

It is always special and particularly rewarding to be given the opportunity to study a private collection. In a way we are given access to somebody’s inner world with its varied traits, habits and personal preferences. A collection can be found meticulously organized or in shambles, well-kept or in a state of conservation. The common factor however is always a profound passion for the object and its history. We are very grateful to Tim and Paul for allowing us to be the first in reviewing the wonderful Norman Rosenberg collection, a tremendous connoisseur in violins and bows.

This sale includes great names of French bow-making artistry dating back to the 19th century such as Jean-Pierre Marie Persoit, Étienne Pajeot, Nicolas Maire, Dominique Peccatte, Joseph Henry as well as François Nicolas Voirin and all of the prestigious masters of his school such as Charles Nicolas Bazin, Alfred Lamy, the Thomassin family and one of the best of his generation, Eugène Sartory.

'A lot of French bows were created to be handled by English dealers'

Our in-depth research of the Bazin family for the publication of one of our books shows an important link between Charles Nicolas Bazin and the United Kingdom. In fact, we can find in the 1896 commercial catalogue references and models clearly marked for the English market. Benefiting from the Treaty of Cobden-Chevalier which suspended customs duties between France and England between 1860 and 1892 when it comes to works of art, Charles Nicolas Bazin had a special production made in copy of the old English master such as James Tubbs and the Dodd family.

CN Bazin catalogue from 1896
Charles Nicolas Bazin's commercial brochure in 1896

This is why it is not uncommon to find London Charles Nicolas Bazin bows in Tubbs models which indicates that a lot of bows were created to be handled by English dealers. You will find below a prime example of such a bow, as well as the 1896 commercial catalogue mentioned previously where the bow is referenced as being in the English style (“genre anglais”) and Real (“vrai”). Another catalogue from 1904 indicates that the bows are copied after the most beautiful models of the original (“copié sur les plus beaux modèles de loriginal”) as can be seen on the illustrated comparison of Tubbs model N°51.

Four models of CN Bazin bows following Tubbs model
CN Bazin's catalogue from 1904
Charles Nicolas Bazin's commercial brochure from 1904

'The bow available in the current sale has most of the typical James Tubbs’ model characteristics.'

The bow available in the current sale has most of the typical James Tubbsmodel characteristics. The head is taller and wider than usual and plated in silver, the ferule of the frog is long and low, the big tail is in one piece and very wide at the metal slide joint. The ebony is also thin outside of the big tail. The pearl slide is also very wide due to the thin dimension of the edges. Finally, the one-piece silver button is typically as long as those found on James Tubbsbows.

It is however not signed on the frog, as Charles Nicolas Bazin sometimes did, to imitate English masters of the 18th and 19th century. Materials used in the exported models were of the best quality available, a fact that is reflected in the high prices shown on these catalogues for this time period.

CN Bazin bow from Norman Rosenberg sale at Ingles and Hayday
Lot 164: A silver-mounted viola bow after Tubbs by Charles Nicolas Bazin

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