This is a very nice Vuillaume model bow made by JJ Martin around 1885. Branded “J. Guarini”, it’s a very fine example of this maker’s work – it has a powerful stick with a big bright sound.

The Vuillume shop in the mid 19th century was the place to be for bow-makers. All of the great talents passed through that shop with the exception of Pajeot. JJ Martin joined as a young man, and then made bows for Vuillaume as an outworker while also making bows under his own brand. This is one of these later bows, exhibiting all the typical details of the Vuillaume model – the trench mount for the frog, the narrow frog culminating in a slightly rounded ferrule, the rounded adjuster.

The Guarini brand belonged to a novel kind of worker’s co-operative which Martin set up with the violin-maker Emile Mennesson – the initial idea was to involve various makers in producing affordable instruments and bows, but to this date we only know of violins made by Mennesson and bows made by Martin … other makers clearly didn’t share Martin’s enthusiasm!

The stick is of wonderful dense deep red-brown pernambuco of round section with a subtle figure, mounts are silver and ebony. The condition is excellent as usual – there are two small splits in the ebony of the adjuster and the screw mortise has been recentred. Other than that there are very few signs of use.

Martin bows demonstrate quite a range of weights and playing qualities, but this bow occupies a happy middle ground. The weight and balance are optimal, the stick is strong yet nervous, and the sound is full and complex without losing clarity.

Lots of attack to the front of the note, a crisp off the string action, overall a slightly punkish character – eager, energetic, borderline aggressive!

A great bow for someone with an extrovert tendency who needs to bring some edge to a dark or reluctant violin…

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