I suppose that most people’s list of “French bows to die for” would read Dominique Peccatte, Joseph Henry, Pierre Simon, FN Voirin in that order. There are more beautifully made bows, there are more historic bows, but these four makers have stood the test of time when it comes to their reputation amongst great players.
Peccatte, Simon and Voirin all worked for JB Vuillaume, and this bow is a Simon from the Vuillaume shop, circa 1850-60. The characteristic frog design and fitting was used by all of the twenty or so Vuillaume makers, but the heads give away the identity of the maker, and Simon is very distinctive with such a backwards curve to the rear of the head. The stick is of round section dark chocolate brown pernambuco, mounts are of silver and ebony, with the typical catfish-mouth ferrule and elegantly curved backplate.
The bow is in very good condition with no damages or repairs other than one possible crack repair to the frog – there are a few dings and scratches to the stick, commensurate with a 150 year old bow that’s had some use.
This is a big powerful bow. If there’s any reproach you could level at mid-19th century French bows, it’s that they can be a bit light or a bit whippy, but you really couldn’t say that about this Simon. The wood is dense and strong, and the first time I put it over a violin the sensation was very much like firing up a Harley Davidson. The analogy holds up – big big sound, smooth and fat, but with fantastic acceleration and response when you need it. Not for a faint-hearted player, but an excellent choice for a soloist taking on the big concertos.
Length 74.4cm, weight 64 grams
Certificate: JF Raffin, Paris 2016
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