A fine French violin bow by Eugene Sartory

Belgian bow maker and expert Pierre Guillaume shares his insight on Eugene Sartory

What aspects of this bow do you find most exciting?
This bow is exceptionally well preserved and all the fittings are absolutely original. Even the lapping is the original fine French silver thread and natural silk of an electric blue. It also retains a crispness of finish that is rare to see in a bow of this age. It was made during Sartory’s 30s, when he was at the pinnacle of his career. I often jokingly say to my apprentices: ‘It is before the age of glasses that a bow maker works best!’

l24657tip Sartory
Which signature traits of Sartory are most visible in the bow?
Sartory’s individual style is clearly visible here. One example is the original ivory face, which becomes thicker and stronger towards the back of the head. Other distinctive traits are the color of the mother of pearl used for the slide and the eyes (blue–green ‘goldfish’ abalone), and the brass eye with its large chamfers.

Why do Sartory bows appeal to collectors?
This is an interesting question. Firstly, for collectors, we can never forget that Sartory was a child prodigy. After only two to three years of making with A. Lamy, he had assimilated all the knowledge he could, and he opened his first workshop at the age of 18. I think he was unique in the history of bow making. His life was dedicated to his work, and there was something very special about his making from the very beginning. It is his genius that collectors intuitively recognise and respect in his work.

l24657frog Sartory
Why does Sartory appeal to musicians?

Each bow maker has their own concept of style, which influences their making accordingly. Such stylistic individualities can be the stiffness of the stick, the height of the head and frog, and so on.  All these aspects drastically influence the functionality of a bow and how it plays. Sartory designed a bow that musicians enjoy playing mainly because it is relatively rigid. Whereas a Tubbs is much more flexible, some might say a little bit too much for actual playing, this would be very rare in a Sartory.  Throughout his entire life, it was Sartory’s regularity and reliability of output that helped contribute to his excellent reputation.

What enabled Sartory to be so consistent and productive?
When we look at his work we instantly see that, like Dominique Peccatte, the bows he made were for playing, not to be studied under a microscope. We have everything necessary in a Sartory bow – the mechanics and the style – yet he rarely impeded himself with detail. Like Peccatte, he was not really interested in fine adjustments to create perfection and, like all the great artisans, he was a quick and efficient worker, driven by his inspiration and natural motivation.

Sartory bow stamp
What is interesting about the wood of this bow
One of the most noticeable qualities of this stick is the outstanding choice of wood, which influences the playability of the bow. As a bow maker myself, I understand the importance of choosing the right stick. Part of Sartory’s secret was his ability to select wood, as he was very rarely mistaken.  For all his bows, his choice of wood was correct and the relationship between the density and stiffness is perfect.

This fine Sartory bow was sold by Tarisio in November 2011. 

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