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Is my bow Baroque-en?


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Apologies for the title. I've bought one of those $100 "Baroque"

bows from Shar, and I need advice from someone familiar with

baroque bows. The bow has a baroque-style tip and frog, but the

shaft is concave

when the hair is loose, like a modern bow. It gets somewhat of a

convex shape when really tightened, but then the shaft warps a

lot. Is a baroque bow supposed to retain its convex shape even when


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Yes the baroque bow goes slightly down toward the hairs when loose

but nowhere near as much curve as a modern bow, then with normal

tension it will bow straight or slightly out under medium tension,

Any of those Chinese sticks I have seen are overly strong and

curved too much inward, any bow expert can correct the curvature

and the side warp for 50-100USD I would think, although youll

always find someone to charge more; its about a 15 min job to fix

it, make sure youre bow expert is knowledgeable about baroque bows

and knows you want it set up ideally for baroque not modern, all

told for $200 or less you get a fairly good usable bow, with

usually quite good quality wood, at least the Pernambuco and

Snakewood, certainly a hand made quality baroque bow for 2-3000USD

is going to be a lot better, and more historical, the CHinese bows

are more like a caricature of baroque, than a historical copy,

sincerely Lyndon

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The Chinese bows are simply modern bows disguised as 'baroque' bows.

As to camber on historical bows, although many transitional bows (which are often misconstrued as baroque bows) have camber, bows in unmodified condition which can be dated without controversy to the baroque era do not have a visible (i.e. obvious) camber when loose, although some do have a measurable camber in that state. When that camber was applied is another question.

Stephen Marvin (www.historicalbows.com) has kindly put his recent article on the bows of Mozart's time up on the web. Although it mostly focuses on later bows, it necessarily discusses the ways in which later bows began to differ from those of the baroque period.

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The above-mentioned article has some good photos.

I'd love to know more about the Stearns bow, it looks like a transitional bow to me.

Knowledge about early bows is rather in flux these days. The recent article by Dr. Seletsky in the Early Music journal challenged a number of ideas which have been widespread due to strongly influential publications by David Boyden (most notably the book The History of Violin Playing from Its Origins to 1761). In December of last year, Early Music Review (a publication of King's Music in the UK) published a very interesting and well argued critique of some of Dr. Seletsky's conclusions by Dr. Kevin MacDonald, and now Dr. Seletsky has an article in the same publication in February of this year which I have yet to read. I'd love to hear what Dr. MacDonald thinks about the Stearns bow, perhaps I am too hard on it.

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Andres, are you saying that the top bow in this picture strikes you as "transitional?"

If so, in what way? From what? What would make a bow more baroque? It certainly fits what I've been assuming was a baroque bow, what I've seen period performers (like Fabio Biondi and Andre Manze) using when they played on period instruments.


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After reading Stephen Marvin's article I think I understand.

Baroque Pattern: shorter, lighter, clip in frog.

Long Baroque Pattern: longer overall, shorter swan head, screw frog.

He says: "A typical baroque bow before 1730 was a very short, light stick with a clip-in frog. Later long baroque bows similarly would not have screw adjusters or significant concave cambre before 1750 or 1760 in France..."

So this is transitional because it is longer? I can't tell from the picture if this is clip in frog. But it looks like it might be.

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I don't know that one can rely on the length in this to do much more than say "probably later than 1730".

This is how I'm thinking about this stuff currently. The term 'transitional' refers to bows which show some evolution from the usual designs of the baroque period, but which do not yet show the full set of features associated with the classical bow. Since there is evidence that bows of a superficially baroque style were still being made during the latter half of the 18th century, 'transitional' is not just a matter of gross type. 'Swan head' bows may be baroque or they may have been made during the transitional period. Although Boyden would have us believe that screw frogs appeared as early as 1700, even MacDonald puts the date forward to 1730 or so, which means that a screw mechanism bow with baroque features is at least a very late baroque bow, and likely a transitional bow.

Because of this one is left to look at subtler stylistic issues in dating bows. The Stearns bow shows what appears to be a well-developed screw frog (it seems to envelope the stick a bit), and a rather high head which leans towards the 'Cramer' in style, i.e. in how the face extends slightly under the throat. In all it just fits better with the neo-baroque transitional bows for me than with the unequivocally dated baroque bows.

I'd like to know the provenance of the bow, and what kind of mortises it has.

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I was talking about the top bow. The way in which the top bow differs from the modified version below in this crude illustration is what I mean. Even the edited version looks later to me.


To my eye the Stearns bow is headed away from the early swan head style and towards this sort of esthetic (shamelessly nabbed from Ralph Ashmead's site, don't know the date of the original):


...and actually the Stearns swan-head bow has much in common with the "French baroque-pattern" transitional bow head illustrated in the Marvin article.

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Yes, I can see that the neck has a very slight turn in. And yes, I see it's similarity with what are called transitional. But it is still clearly a) not a Cramer head and :) closer to the baroque type than to the classical.

Perhaps the problem -- which is well illustrated both in Marvin's paper and other writers on bow development -- is that ALL bows from the 18th century, to one degree are another -- were "transitional" -- that is, there were myriad variations. There is no one type of "transitional."

So in that broad sense, okay, the stearns bow is not the purest Baroque bow, clearly not a modern -- so it's transitional.

I find the term has very little meaning when applied to 70 years or so of experimentation.

It seems to me it only has meaning when applied to an experiment -- like the Cramer head or the battle-axe head -- that was clearly pointing to a style that persisted -- the modern Tourte. Or the truncated swan-head (your second illustration from Ashmead) that looks to me to foreshadow Persoit and Pageot.

The operative qualities of what is commonly called a Baroque bow (accepting Marvin's caveat that most re-creations are of later long baroque style) are: 1) lighter, 2) less tension due to the lack of camber, 3) thinner ribbon 4) the ribbon gets closer to the stick as it approaches the tip (rather than held equidistant from the stick by a down/in turned head).

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For what it's worth the attached picture shows the very limited definitions given at the Stearns exhibit. The bows were mounted on the wall with the text mounted next to them. Unfortunately there was no other discription given. What they are calling "Baroque Europe" may in fact be transitional and the only close example they had for display.

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Falstaff--The term 'transitional' does not name an organological type but it still makes a valid distinction: just as music evolved after the baroque period, so did musical equipment. For your purposes the distinctions may seem trivial, but for anyone interested in period performance they are not.

The differences which make it possible to distinguish between bows made during the time of, say, Handel, and those made during the time of Mozart are no less comprehensible than those which allow people to tell apart the various makers of modern-pattern bows.

As to Cramer, I promise I have not been in danger of disagreeing with your point a). I am only sorry to find I was not clear enough to prevent your thinking otherwise.

Chris--it's ok, museums are not always the repositories of state-of-the-art knowledge which we might wish them to be.

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I take your point, Andres. And meant no offense.

I didn't mean to imply that the variations among bows between strict Baroque and Modern were trivial.

I re-read your earlier post and I now understand better your point. It might be "superficially baroque," but because of variations in head and frog, it may be that it's one of those persistent "baroque bows" that were made well into the modern period.

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