With the import of increasingly valuable Italian violins into increasingly affluent France from the mid-16th to 19th centuries, Paris became a major centre of violin music. Advances in playing techniques, along with the growing size of concert halls, necessitated improvements in bowmaking. Evolutions in bow techniques and innovations in bow technique in Paris and Mirecourt influenced each other in a positive cycle.
Francois Tourte (1747-1845) is widely considered the "father of modern bow making", raising the height of the heads and frogs to allow the concave stick, adding metal rings to the buttons and metal heel plates to the frogs to change the balance point of the bow, and inventing the ferrule to stabilise the hair bundle. He and his family's workshop greatly influenced their contemporaries such as J.P.M. Persoit (1782-1854), Jacob Eury (1765-1848), and Francois Lupot II (1774-1838), who took Tourte's model and further developed it with the invention of the metal underslide around 1828 to 1830.
Dominique Peccatte (1810-1874) of Mirecourt also refined the shape of the head into the more masculine "hatchet" shape and used a squarer throat on the frog. Trained in This style caught on in Paris, and then spread to Mirecourt when he moved there in became the norm in Mirecourt and Paris until the 1860s, when rounder heads became more popular. Bows made during this time were classified as works of the "Late Peccatte school". Francois Nicolas Voirin in particular used a more rounded and decorative style, which was passed on through his workshop assistants, including Joseph Alfred Lamy (1850-1919), and Louis Thomassin.
After Voirin's death J. A. Lamy set up his Paris workshop, while his brother, Joseph Jean-Baptiste Lamy (1848-1906), continued to make bows in Mirecourt for the Maline family - both prolific families. Meanwhile, first cousins Louis (1856-1905), Claude Auguste (1865–1942) and Victor (1856-1920) Thomassin produced bows in a bold style, likely influenced by Voirin. Claude Auguste, the most prolific, worked for the Gand and Bernadel workshop in Paris, where he adopted the younger Victor Fetique's (1872-1933) rounded ferrule corners.
Further developments at the the end of the 19th century were led by Eugene Sartory (1875-1951) of Mirecourt, who created stronger bows with faster reactivity, to accomodate the introduction of steel strings and more guttural, modern music. His bows quickly became known and sought after throughout Europe and America for their superior choice of pernambuco and their playability.
After the First World War, several bowmaking families rose to prominence in Mirecourt. The Ouchard family workshop was first registered in Mirecourt around 1922 by Emile Francois Ouchard (1872-1951). However, his relationship with son and apprentice Emile August (1900-1969) was strained after Emile Auguste purchased the family workshop in 1937, but then just three years later left Mirecourt to set up his own shop in Paris. He then went to New York in 1946, then Illinois, then finally returned to France in 1960, settling in Gan. His two sons, Bernard and Jean-Claude, both became bowmakers. Bernard Ouchard (1925-1979) Worked in Geneva for the Vidoudez firm for about twenty years, then became the professor at the Bow Making School of Mirecourt, where he trained many of today's most important bow makers.
The Bazin family were also influential , dominating the Mirecourt trade for decades around the turn of the 20th century. The first bowmaker of the family, Francois Bazin (1824-1865), was influenced by the Peccatte school. At the time of his death, his son was only eighteen years old. The young Charles Nicolas Bazin II (1847-1915) inherited the family business with the help of C.C.N. Husson, a friend of his father's, and made it one of the most influential workshops in Mirecourt. Many local bowmakers were trained in the Bazin workshop (including Claude August Thomassin). The workshop was inherited by Charles Louis Bazin (1881-1953) in 1907, and by Charles Alfred Bazin (1907-1987) in 1952. The death of Charles Alfred in 1987 marked the end of the century-and-a-half reign of the "Bazin Dynasty".
Paris and Mirecourt have been remarkably important hubs for the culture of bowmaking; both have had a resounding influence in France, Europe, and the world throughout the last three centuries. The major French bow-making schools have produced bows with a variety of characteristics, but are all known for their superior quality.
Adapted from French Bow Makers: A Concise Guide (2017) by Anton Lu.