Posted By on January 23, 2012

Around 1980 Cyril Jacklin told me he used to take the boat-train to Paris, before the war, to visit Sartory and buy bows directly from him. Eugène Sartory died in 1946, aged seventy-five. He’d worked for Charles Peccatte and Lamy before making on his own account. Cyril was, of course, amazed at the ludicrous prices that Sartory bows were fetching at auction – good ones were then going for over a thousand pounds, whereas only five years earlier they’d been less than £500.

During my fourteen years at Sotheby’s I witnessed the inexorable rise in price of Sartory bows, culminating in my very last sale there, which was in June 1991. That was the sale which included five brand new violin bows by Sartory, and another new gold-and-tortoiseshell bow by Émile Français. How so? Well, I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets now if I state that the owners of these bows also possessed a pretty-much unknown, and very fresh, violin by Stradivari, and these bows were just part of their investment. They had never been used and, when I first saw them, were still in the maker’s original box. Astonishing.

The Stradivari, incidentally, was unquestionably genuine and had a certificate from the aforementioned Émile Français. Despite quoting an eye-wateringly high, world-record price for the violin, the owners were wise and kept it as an investment. But they were pleased with my estimates for the bows, which by now was over £4,000 each, and they duly arrived in London. There is a superb photograph of five new Sartory bows in the catalogue. One of them, a gold-mounted “Exhibition” violin bow, sold for £15,950. This is over twenty years ago, remember.

Sartory viola bow stamp

Why do I mention it now? Because I’ve just got an excellent viola bow by Sartory for sale. Viola bows are pretty rare. Because I keep records of this sort of thing I know that, between 1977 and 1991, Sotheby’s had 125 violin bows, 41 cello bows and only 11 viola bows by Sartory. This is a nice straightforward example, stamped in the right place and under the lapping as well, and with a completely un-interfered-with head. It weighs 72 grams.

Sartory bow head

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