The Parisian Eye

Violin bow

Have you ever wondered what the circled pearl eye on the frog of a bow means?

The nickname for it is the Parisian Eye and it is a purely aesthetic accessory. The eye is made of mother of pearl and the ring surrounding it can be made of gold, silver or some other metal. The name was coined at the beginning of the 20th century but by whom and precisely why remains a mystery. Some claim bowmakers in Britain started using the term because the design originated in France.

Francois Tourte (1747- 1835) of the famous bowmaking family created one of the first examples and other bowmakers followed. However, the pearl eye was still not known as the Parisian at that time. 

In 1900 an important discovery was made by Sir Arthur Evans on the island of Crete. A fresco of a beautiful woman, later identified as a goddess, was uncovered in the Knossos palace of legendary King Minos. This young woman in the painting was admired by a French archaeologist who dubbed her La Parisienne, because of an uncanny resemblance to contemporary French beauties of the period. Her large dark eye immediately comes to mind as the inspiration  behind the Parisian Eye. The discoveries at Knossos caused a sensation among the public, so it's possible bowmakers got the idea for the name from this source.

Also in 1900, the Exposition in Paris had its own statue familiarly called La Parisienne of a beautiful young woman, which probably further inspired the name. At the turn of the century, a French bowmaker, Eugene Sartory exhibited his splendid bow to English bowmakers and proved another source of inspiration for the Parisian Eye, since Sartory's workshop was in Paris. 

Whatever the case, the Parisian Eye adds beauty to the violin bow and is a recognizable feature.