A Gorgeous Tourte Bow

I love this bow. I think it is the one in the book “Les Archets “ Volume 1 side 105 Nr. 12 without frog.


I understand that they didn’t show the frog because it seems to be of a later period. In fact, the frog doesn’t fit very well on the stick, which probably means it was made for another bow.


In the book they call these types of bow collaboration Leonard / Francois Xavier. I must say that I can’t imagine two bowmakers working on the same bow. Even if they are brothers, it is asking for problems. I think it is much more likely that FX made this stick in the workshop of his older brother, Leonard. Maybe FX made screws for his brother or he was the one to begin with the silver parts, or maybe he even made buttons for his brother, but making a whole bow together is counterproductive. In my opinion FX made this bow alone.

Leonard’s bows are voluptuous, female, a little nonchalant, but elegant and noble. FX is another type: a little dry, masculine, conceptual and very precise. I see this in this bow and therefore I believe that FX has made it as a young man, working at the shop of his brother.

The frog might be of a later period, but it is stunningly beautiful. The shield must have had a meaning at the time, maybe something with the French Revolution? I don’t know. The inlay is well done, even though one can see some little gaps around the mother of pearl. I couldn’t do it better, but it is not perfectly done. But, the rest of the frog is simply gorgeous. The ferrule is made from very thin silver.


That is a little astonishing since later in his life he used very thick silver, but this might be an early version of the frogs with a ferrule when FX had little money to buy his materials. The ferrule is also very short, the shortest I have ever seen, only 6 mm. Maybe he started out like this and later they became bigger and heavier.

Looking at this bow it seems as if FX wanted to make the bow as light as possible, but he chose a stick with a very high specific weight. The stick weighs 38 grams and is less than 7,5 mm in the middle and the whole stick is very thin. I don’t have that kind of wood. It is very dense but on the soft side, the Lucchis are around 5000, for those who are using that. The stick is soft, but still stronger than what you would expect by just looking at it. It weighs 54 grams with a silk thread, which you can see on the picture.

Frog and button are very lightweight. The frog has an enormous mortise and very little extra wood around it. FX took as much wood off as possible without weakening the frog too much. It has some cracks, but after 200 years it is still in good shape, I would say. FX was a clever guy, even though he hardly knew how to read and write. But he was obviously a good thinker. His choices are very functional.


I had this bow in the shop for a while, so, of course, I tried to copy it. I made a very good bow, but as a copy there were quite some mistakes. And, I didn’t make the shield, just too lazy. I had done it once many years ago and I don’t want to do it again, I prefer to play tennis. I bet FX didn’t play tennis, that wasn’t possible at his time in Paris. He was incredibly focused and that is why he is FX Tourte and I am Andreas Grütter, no comparison I’m afraid.

The tip is rounded at the front, no ridge as he did later. But, the way he worked on the head is quite typical for him, taking away as much wood as possible without increasing the danger of breakage. The mortise has been widened later, in my opinion. It doesn’t look original.


But the ebony lining is of one piece. Pieter Oxley told me once that the early bowmakers did that.
I didn’t believe him at the time, but now I see it with my own eyes. The ivory is very thin, but maybe it became that thin by polishing it too often. I imagine it was a little thicker in the beginning.

I didn’t believe him at the time, but now I see it with my own eyes. The ivory is very thin, but maybe it became that thin by polishing it too often. I imagine it was a little thicker in the beginning.

The ebony became loose once and is glued back in a sloppy way. That makes the tip look straighter than it was, just a fraction.

Behind the head you see the comma that is typical of FX. And the stick is a little higher than wider.
This is something you often see with his bows.


Behind the head the stick is 5mm high and in the middle less than 7,5mm, the end is 8,7mm.
Actually the whole stick is higher than wider.
The frog is 13mm wide and as the silver is very thin it creates quite a wide hair ribbon.

This stick has a full curve, but I doubt this is original. To see a bow with its original curve, after more than 200 years, is very rare anyway.

I do believe that the frog was made by FX, but possibly later. It doesn’t fit very well onto the stick.
The shield and the slide are made from a beautiful piece of mother of pearl; the two dots seem to me to be made of another type of mother of pearl. I am not sure if he did this or that maybe someone else embellished the frog later. It could also be an experiment of his, but as far as I know, this frog is the only one with dots like that. Otherwise, the frog looks really nice: lower at the back and the throat undercut as many FX frogs.


The button is interesting, too. The silver is very thin and octagonal on the inside. I still don’t understand how he made the round silver ring bigger than the flats. But he did. It looks a little beaten now, but it could be just worn. The inside is made of ivory, which is rounded and not octagonal, very strange, I don’t understand that either. And, at the end it is very round, so he must have used thicker silver there. Usually FX put a thread on the part of the screw that goes into the button. I thought that could be the reason he used ivory, because it is harder and can hold the thread better than ebony. That’s just an idea.


This bow is very lyrical and has a deep full sound.
I think it is the perfect bow for the classical period from Mozart to Beethoven and played on gut strings.
Gut strings need a different bow than modern strings, a softer stick with a slower attack. Otherwise they squeak and make a thin and unpleasant sound. But this bow enhances the core of the sound and lets the overtones shine.

I know that Isabella Faust wanted this bow, but didn’t get it. A client of mine bought it, right after he had heard that she was interested. This happened after the bow has been lying at a dealer for about 10 years and nobody was interested.

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