Top – Rare Violin Bow by Charles Nicholas Bazin, branded and made for W.E. Hill and Sons c1890, certified by J.F. Raffin. Raffin was aware of CN Bazin having made bows for Hills but this is the first example he has ever seen.
Middle – Violin Bow by and branded Louis Bazin c1930, nickel and Ebony mounted. Characteristic of his early style with a thin head and ferrule.
Bottom – Violin Bow by and branded Charles [Alfred] Bazin. As always CA Bazin only used the finest pernambuco. This bow also has his characteristic red varnish and the rounded frog reminiscent of Sartory and Morizot bows of the early 20th century.
It is hard to overstate the impact that the Bazin family had on bowmaking in France, with the lives of the four main bowmakers – Francois Xavier, Charles Nicholas, Charles Louis and Charles Alfred – stretching over 160 years. Francois Xavier moved from Mirecourt to Paris around 1850, possibly serving his apprenticeship with the master maker Dominique Peccatte, whose work Francois Xavier’s bears close resemblance to. At the age of just 12 Charles Nicholas Bazin started working for his father, and upon his father’s sudden death in 1865 Charles Nicholas took over the family company at just 18 years old.
The early work of Charles Nicholas is very closely linked to that of his father’s – relatively heavy bows with exaggerated chamfers at the head, wide pearl slides, and almost always in the style of Peccatte or Vuillaume. Following his father’s death Charles Nicholas’ work changed, becoming more refined and elegant, with the heads becoming rounder and closer in style to those of his older contemporary Francois Nicholas Voirin.
Charles Nicholas became not only one of the most important bowmakers in Paris, but also one of the most important teachers, employers and businessmen. He was clearly respected in the instrument trade. In 1906 his apprentices included Georges Gillet, Arthur Husson, Francois Lotte, Sigisbert Maline, Louis Morizot and Charles Emile Piernot, all of whom had fathers who were luthiers or archetiers in their own right. He was also an excellent entrepreneur, selling a multitude of accessories and components for bowmaking and repair, and made bows for some of the most important violin shops in Paris and further afield.
Louis, who had also apprenticed with his father, began to take over the family business from about 1907, taking full responsibility for the company before his father’s death in 1915. He continued to take on employees and apprentices and made bows for many of the Parisian violin shops of the time. His early bows are similar in character to his father’s, with slightly narrower heads giving a softer playing feel to the upper half of the bow. He was called up to serve his country in the latter part of the First World War, and on his return his bows become wider both at the head and the frog, although he retained the ability to change his model depending on who commissioned his work.
Charles Alfred began his apprenticeship with Louis in 1922 at 15 years old, quickly becoming adept at bowmaking and business and helping his father in both respects. His father had moved the family business out of Paris and back to Mirecourt and kept on only very few employees and apprentices. Alfred’s bows still resemble the traditional “Bazin” model, although his bows are clearly distinguishable from his father’s. His silverwork and chamfers are crisper, the varnish often richer and redder, and only using the finest materials, with many of his bows mounted in gold and tortoiseshell. Towards the end of his life he became more reclusive than his father and grandfather, refusing to make bows for others, sell accessories, or take apprentices on in the traditional Bazin style, instead concentrating on his own artistic output which remained incredibly fine until his retirement in the early 1980s. He passed away in 1987, the last bowmaker of the great Bazin family.