Charles Peccatte violin bow

April 16th, 2012
Bowmaker & expert Pierre Guillaume speaks with Tarisio about Charles Peccatte and Lot 175 in the April 2012 auction.

Stamped, “Peccatte” to both sides of the handle.
Silver mounted. 59.0 grams
* Sold with a certificate from Pierre Guillaume, Brussels.

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Estimate: $18,000–25,000



“It would be an injustice to stay silent about the magnificent wood of this bow.”

What aspects of this bow are most exciting to see?
It is always extremely exciting to have access to bows of this caliber, especially as it is very rare to find one in such good condition. Where to start on a bow of this quality is always difficult, so I have picked three aspects that are of particular interest:

The maker’s stamp
In the majority of cases Charles Peccatte signed his bows with his name in full, which is also common practice in his uncle and father’s work. He differed, however, by signing his bows on both sides of the stick, which can of course be observed on this bow. To sign the sticks in this manner is quite unusual in the history of French bow making. There is a possibility that he may have been trying to differentiate himself from his predecessors by doing so.

The style of the head with its original ivory face
Charles had a unique way of carving heads. This always gives an incredible impression of strength in comparison to their tiny volume.

The blued screw and brass eye
This technique is derived from watch making, where watch hands were often “blued.” This wasn’t just for aesthetic purposes, it was done for preservation. The color of the steel is actually a side effect and is obtained by heating the metal to roughly 200°C. At this temperature the structure of the metal changes, giving it slightly different properties. One of these happens to be the color; the other is increased protection from oxidization. This screw is a perfect example: it is 120 years old and like new!

What is important to note about the life of Charles Peccatte when you see his bows?
In my opinion, we cannot talk about one individual style for the Peccatte family. The distinction must be made between François and Dominique on one hand, and Charles on the other.

Charles’s father died a few days after his son’s fifth birthday. Unfortunately this robbed Charles of the chance of working under his influence. Likewise, there has never been evidence found suggesting that he had any kind of working relationship with his uncle Dominique.

“The steel is heated to 200°C. At this temperature
the metal changes.”

Charles had started an apprenticeship with Auguste Lenoble, his unofficial stepfather, aged 12. When Charles turned 20, the Franco–Prussian War started. These were extremely difficult times for the instrument making business in Paris and the war gave him no choice but to postpone his career and work as a part-time public servant.

It is only around 1880 that he really started working as a full-time bow maker. Regardless, this had little effect on the success of his career. Charles would later have the illustrious Eugène Sartory as an apprentice and would also win several medals in the World Exhibitions: Anvers (Belgium) in 1885, and Paris (France) in 1889, when he was joint winner with Alfred Lamy père.

What makes Charles Peccatte bows so successful?
The reason for the success of the bows of the Peccatte family is their individuality. All the Peccattes emanated a very strong, robust personality. Charles was no exception, keeping certain family traditions alive, such as the ‘wide’ head model.

In 1885 Voirin was without contest the bow maker in vogue, and thus the most copied. He established a fine, elegant, some might say feminine style for his bow heads. Lamy, who worked closely with Voirin, also had a similar finesse.

“It is a flamed pernambuco of a gold amber color, which has wonderful aesthetics & the best mechanics.”

Charles Peccatte, however, distinguished himself from his peers with a very original style. The heads of his bows are strong, powerful, yet still complementary to the light, elegant style of that era. His working of the bow sticks left them more rigid, which made them very powerful, and it is this characteristic that is enthralling for the contemporary player. It is for this reason that there is such interest in his work.

What additional comments can you share about this bow?
It would be an injustice to stay silent about the magnificent wood of this bow. Charles Peccatte envisaged his work with an emphasis on the aesthetic aspect, but without compromising the quality of performance. He chose his wood with great care, and this bow is made out of an extraordinary and very rare piece. It is a flamed pernambuco of a gold amber color, which has wonderful aesthetics but also the best mechanics.