Nicolas Léonard Tourte (b. 1745–d. 1807)

While his younger brother, François Xavier, has historically been credited with the creation of the modern bow, research shows that Nicolas Léonard Tourte ‘l’Ainé’ began making bows before his brother, during a time of great innovation in French bow making. Desire for a wider tonal palette and accompanying modifications in playing technique in the mid-18th century led to sweeping new demands in bow construction. Around 1750 and in the ensuing decades, makers experimented abundantly, and parallel versions of the modern bow existed side by side. Nicolas Léonard is especially known for his bows on a Cramer model, which are quite popular among performers of 18th-century period practice. His ‘modern’ Viotti-style bows are fewer, probably because the political upheaval of the French Revolution diminished his output later in life. Read more on Cozio.

Nicolas Léonard Tourte c. 1775

The Tourte family quickly adopted the new Cramer style of bow that arrived in Paris towards the end of the 1760s and was better suited to the early Classical style of music. The frog of this example is still made in the Louis XV style, but the head has the much higher Cramer style.

  • Nicolas Léonard Tourte c. 1775