This is a very nicely preserved viola bow by Joseph Henry, perhaps the most reliable maker of the Peccatte school. It’s a phenomenal sounding bow with a big velvety tone.
A Joseph Henry bow is quite a modest affair – free from quirks or affectations, generally made with quite modest looking wood, definitely not trying to impress. Yet he is one of the most consistent makers to have come out of the Vuillaume shop, and we have never come across an Henry that didn’t play well.
This late example, made for Gand & Bernardel, shows all the typical attributes of Henry’s style – a slightly curvaceous take on a Peccatte head, a nice open thumb projection, a very square button. The stick is of round section orange-brown pernambuco of medium density with a gentle flame. Mounts are silver and ebony with a plain pearl eye.
The condition is excellent – there’s a small amount of wear to the handle of the stick and the thumb projection, and the underslide is a bit ragged. The screw morstise has been bushed, but on a bow of this age we would regard this more as maintenance than restoration.
This is a proper old school viola bow – the stick is supple yet powerful, the bow sits in the strings not on top, and the sound is full of core energy. It sounds great on any instrument big or small – the stick is quite thick and the action is smooth, but it’s a very easy bow to throw around and the response is immediate. It’s a perfectly realised combination of attributes, and it’s a joy to use.
Modern makers should study these 19th century bows more closely – the pursuit of high Lucchi readings isn’t helping anyone to make better music!