When I was asked to make a bow for a 16th century viol recently restored by Master Federico Lowenberger, I was faced with two options: to copy a surviving bow of the same period (1,2,3), or to make a bow based on iconographic evidence.
|The painting Madonna con bambino, S.Petronio e Maria Maddalena (4) by Orazio Samacchini (1532-1577) shows a viol and a bow. The viol depicted here is, if not identical, remarkably similar to the one being restored, and the drawing for this painting (5) reveals many details of the bow and of the player’s technique. Another work by the same artist, a fresco in the church of S. Abbondio in Cremona, clearly shows the tip of a bow of the same type.|
|The idea of making a bow based on the paintings by Samacchini became more and more attractive and so I decided to proceed, despite being aware of the fact that a reconstruction based even only partly on iconographic sourcescan never recreate exactly the original item, and always bearing in mind both the surviving bows and the other iconographic evidence.|
The Samacchini drawing allowed me to calculate the possible length and maximum diameter of the
stick. This latter detail suggested that the wood used for the stick was of low density. Cherry wood was myfirst choice from the types of wood known to have been used in Italy in that period. From the surviving bows, I was able to calculate the proportionate decrease in diameter of the stick and I applied this factor to the measurements taken from the drawing. The shape of the tip was inspired by the fresco in S. Abbondio church, and the frog was an exact copy of the surviving Bologna bow 3; its dimensions closely matched those depicted by Samacchini.
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