Confusion as £31k ‘Du Pre’ bow is withdrawn from auction

Eyebrows show up when a London auction firm said it was seeking £20-30,000 for a cello bow by James Tubbs once owned by Jacqueline Du Pre.

That’s 2-3 times the face value of a Tubbs, but bidders were seemingly not deterred.

Bidding had reached £31,000 when the bow was pulled from sale.

What happened?

Here’s what the auctioneers are telling the frustrated bidders:

Lot 32 from our October auction, the James Tubbs cello bow presumed to have been in the possession of Jacqueline du Pré, has been withdrawn. The bow came to us from a reliable source, however new information has since been brought to our attention which caused us to investigate further.

With the help of Jacqueline’s siblings, Hilary and Piers, we confirmed some elements of the bow’s history but others remained in doubt. We then called David and Andrew Hill and Charles Beare who were the dealers who knew Jacqueline best at different parts of her career. Neither David nor Andrew could specifically recall the bow or was able to confirm that the bow had been sold through Hills as had been reported to us by our consignor.

Our responsibility is to present things accurately and correctly and to look out for the interests of our clients. There is no doubt this bow is a fine example of a James Tubbs in virtually untouched state, but unfortunately we no longer have the confidence to stand behind the provenance and have chosen to withdraw the bow.

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  • The stupid buyers of “names” are always out there.
    The under belly of much of the violin dealers world would cause even the most savvy
    to take great pause before entering that world .
    An auctioneers word is often much like asking a fox to guard the hen house

      • There is nothing bleak in the observation ,unless one wants to accept it as such .
        It’s what the market will bear and the con job that goes with the market .A” good” bow by
        any unknown will do the same job as a “good” bow by Tubbs.It’s the player that makes
        the difference …give the player a good bow and the performance will equal any overpriced famous name bow . It’s dealer hype that the great unwashed buy into ,
        and dealers knowing this keep the “mystique” well nourished.It’s the “name” that
        is being sold .

        • Milka I’m not convinced that the ‘great unwashed’, whoever they may be, are out there paying 15k for a cello bow. Could be worse you know, I read an estimate on the fine wine auction market that was quite staggering- one authority suggesting that 80% of pre 1990 burgundy on offer is fake. And unlike with instruments, how do you tell? Open it and drink it I guess.

          • But they are sold the mystique that ms x used such & such bow and mr. used such
            and such violin which results in their success as entertainers . And no prominent
            player for publicity value alone wants to be caught dead playing a violin made by
            a little known maker..playing a Strad etc. is showing you have arrived, no matter
            the Strad might be an almost useless example .It is all about the wizard behind
            the curtain. The wine may taste like vinegar but at serval thousand $$$$$$ it
            will be found tasty.

    • Thank you Captain Obvious.

      Did they not pull the bow when the provinence became disputed?

      I like old things. Interesting old things are even better.

  • Surely in this case the auction house acted responsibly?
    Did Beares Auctions do their homework in this way when they sold a sad old Tourte as the “ex-Huberman” for a record sum?

  • I agree – I think this auction house behaved in an exemplary manner. I think it’s regrettable that Beares Auctions didn’t carry out similar research when then they sold the supposed “Ex-Huberman” Tourte for a record sum.

  • 20-30 k pounds is not at all “2-3 times the face value of a Tubbs.” Where the hell do you get your information from? I own several Tubbs violin and 2 viola bows. Both viola bows in perfect condition are insured for $30,000. Yes I realize that’s a bit high but guarantee you I could sell either of those for 20 k plus tomorrow.

  • People may be confused, thinking this was (or could have been) Jacqueline du Pré’s playing bow. It was not, even though it is heavy. Her everyday bow was a Dodd, albeit stamped Panormo, that was over 90 grams complete with rubber tube ‘lapping’. My bow making mentor Arthur Bultitude made her a copy of it from the densest piece of pernambuco he could find, in order to match it. It’s that bow she is using in the Christopher Nupen film.

    • Charles Beare is quoted about Du Pre’s bows, in Elizabeth Wilson’s biography of Du Pre (Jacqueline Du Pre. Her Life, Her Music, Her Legend).

      Here goes with what Beare says: “When I first knew her she was playing on Hill bows. Then I found her a really super Dodd, which she just adored. She preferred that to the Tourtes or Packards that she tried. When I showed her a bow and asked her what she thought of it, she would immediately play right next to the bridge, bending the bow in a curve with all the hair absolutely steady on the string. One day her mother was bringing the Dodd in for rehair and the bow got caught in the car door–it was such a strong stick it didn’t break, but it bent round at an angle. That was the end of that bow. I cast around for another Dodd similar to that one and I came across a Palormo, so I gave that to Jackie who used it for the rest of her playing career. It was a very heavy bow.”

      Wilson continues: “To stop her thumb slipping on the stick, she added a rubber tubing over the entire handle area of her bows. Beare recalled that with this addition the Palormo bow weighed in at 105 grams, which he believes to be a world record! Jackie would never consider using a bow by another maker and acquired a second Palormo to use as a spare” (pp. 134-135).

      • I should have put [sic] by “Palormo”, which is the way Wilson writes the name.

        The correct name is Panormo (for Louis Panormo).

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