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The Artistry of the Bow: Christie’s Fine Musical Instruments Sale

by WorthPoint Staff (04/17/12).

A Gold And Ivory-Mounted Violin Bow, Paris, circa 1849, made by J.B. Vuillaume. The round stick stamped “VUILLAUME A PARIS,” the ivory frog with bas-relief carving in a floral motif on the sides and engraved family coat of arms and the initials “N P,” along with a caricature of Niccolò Paganini embellishing the top, the engraved ivory adjuster with single gold collar, weight 56.5 grams with original tinsel wrap. It is estimated to sell for $70,000 to $120,000 at Christie’s Fine Musical Instruments, to be held on April 26.

NEW YORK – More than 100 lots comprised of classical musical instruments—with a particular emphasis on impressive bows, including examples created by master craftsmen François Xavier Tourte and Jean Baptiste Vuillaume—will be featured in Christie’s spring sale of Fine Musical Instruments, to be held on April 26.

Highlighting the selection of bows is a gold and ivory-mounted violin bow created by Vuillaume in Paris, circa 1849, which carries a presale estimate of $70,000 to $120,000). A revered French violin maker and dealer, Vuillaume followed the bow-making techniques of Tourte and employed the most distinguished artisans of the craft, ensuring that the bows produced by his workshop were as admired as the violins. A trademark of Vuillaume’s bows is the depiction of noted musicians; this bow pays tribute to Niccolò Paganini, the renowned violinist, violist, guitarist and composer, with his likeness carved in bas-relief.

A pair gold and tortoiseshell-mounted violin bow by Tourte will also be featured in the sale. Created in Paris, circa 1820-1825, this bow is a quintessential example of the form revolutionized by Tourte. A French clockmaker turned instrument craftsman, Tourte modernized the structure of the bow to meet the demands of the changing musical styles of the 19th century, allowing musicians to play more varied repertoires in larger venues. These bows are expected to sell for $150,000-$250,000.

A varied selection of stringed instruments will also be presented, including a Venetian violin by Domenico Montagnana, circa 1740 (estimate: $200,000-$300,000), and a Mantuan violin by Pietro Giovanni Guarneri (estimate: $250,000-$350,000). A French violin by Nicolas Lupot, known as the ex-Spohr, is also featured (estimate: $60,000-$80,000). An instrument with noteworthy provenance, the ex-Spohr is traditionally believed to have once been the primary instrument of German violinist, composer and conductor Ludwig Spohr.

An exceptional woodwind instrument offered in the sale is a five-keyed boxwood clarinet by Carl Augustin Grenser, one of the greatest woodwind makers of the 18th-century German School (estimate: $10,000-$15,000). In addition to being a talented craftsman, Grenser was also an accomplished musician. His surviving instruments are revered for their exceptional workmanship as well as their intonation and splendid tone.

Additional highlights include a classical guitar by Antonio Emilio Pascual Viudes from Buenos Aires, 1924 (estimate: $15,000-$25,000), a flamenco guitar by Domingo Esteso from Madrid, 1925 (estimate: $3,000-$5,000), and another classical guitar by Manuel Velazquez from New York, 1966 (estimate: $5,000-$7,000).

For more information about this auction, visit the Christie’s website.

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