A fine François Peccatte bow owned by Ysaÿe

Formerly played by Ysaÿe, this bow is a superb example of François Peccatte's best work

The Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (1858–1931) was one of the greatest virtuosos of the early recorded age. Henri Vieuxtemps discovered him as a 12-year-old prodigy after hearing him practising in a cellar as he passed by on the street above. From there a legend was born. After study with Henryk Wieniawski and developing a ‘master and disciple’ relationship with Vieuxtemps, he graduated from the Liège Conservatoire to begin a career that would propel him to international fame. He toured Norway, Russia and France, and became a violin professor at the Brussels Conservatoire.

Ysaÿe inspired works by Franck, Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Fauré, and wrote his own six sonatas for unaccompanied violin and eight violin concertos as well as other works. Many contemporaries idolized him, including Kreisler, Thibaud, Menuhin and Enesco. Pablo Casals claimed never to have heard a violinist play in tune before Ysaÿe, while Carl Flesch called him ‘the most outstanding and individual violinist I have ever heard in my life’. He became friends with Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, and the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition is dedicated in his memory.

François Peccatte violin bow. Photos: Tarisio

Ysaÿe owned several excellent bows by makers such as Tourte, Peccatte and Sartory. The silver-mounted François Peccatte violin bow shown above is of superb quality. This bow was sold by the dealer Jacques Français in 1980 and is believed to come from Français’s father, Emile, who was the source of many other ex-Ysaÿe bows such as those owned by Isaac Stern. It was formerly attributed to François’s more famous elder brother, Dominique Peccatte.

François Peccatte’s bows vary greatly in quality of materials and workmanship. While many of his contemporaries mounted their best bows in gold, tortoiseshell and ivory, Peccatte seems to have gone in the other direction. He typically mounted his best bows in silver and ebony and even those, as this example shows, often have a nickel underslide. The head model has a strong and angular profile, similar to that of his elder brother. The ferrule is engraved ‘EY’.

This François Peccatte violin bow was sold by Tarisio Private Sales in 2018.

Read our feature about Ysaÿe and his violins by Tully Potter.

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