The son of occasional violinmaker, Jean Joseph Lamy, Joseph Alfred (known by the moniker ‘Lamy père’) was born in Mirecourt and began his apprenticeship with Claude Charles Nicolas Husson aged just twelve years old.
In 1868, age eighteen, armed with over half a decades experience, he moved to Château-Thierry where he would remain for nine years. In this time, he worked with Pierre Louis Goutrot, continuing largely in Husson’s style, and met and married his wife (Élysa Émile Josèphe Cuvillier).
A colleague of Lamy Père’s in Goutrot’s workshop was Joseph Voirin, the youngest brother of François Nicolas Voirin. It may have been this connection that inspired Lamy to uproot his family in 1876, already with four of the five children he would have, and move to Paris to work in Voirin’s workshop. The two got on famously until Voirin’s untimely death nine years later, their styles slowly merging to constant subtle brilliance. Millant comments in L’Archet that “During the nine years he spent with F.N. Voirin, Lamy Père acquired a mastery which rivalled that of his master. His style was so similar to that of Voirin that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between bows made by one or the other.”
[A] Conscientious workman, incontestably skilful in refinement… - W. Henley
Upon Voirin’s death, in 1885, Lamy set up independently for the first time in Rue Poissonniere, home to many great violin and bow makers over the years. A stone’s throw from the home of Eugene Sartory, the two began working together for a short period, Lamy having a lot of influence over Sartory’s early work.
As Lamy worked for longer on his own, he began to make small changes to his model - the heads becoming more substantial and the chamfers bolder. He essentially worked in the opposite direction to Voirin who had spent the latter part of his career refining the Vuillaume model, making the bow lighter and more “feminine”. Lamy however began with the late Voirin model and built upwards into stronger designs.
After a successful end to his career, partly due to the accolades from having won a Silver and Gold medals in the Paris Exhibitions around the turn of the century, Lamy père passed away in 1919, leaving his business to his one surviving son who was trained in the family business - Hippolyte Camille Lamy.
Joseph Alfred Lamy remains one of the most eminent bow makers of the end of 19th century to the beginning of the 20th; he was the ideal link between Voirin and Sartory. - B. Millant
Sometimes it’s the simple things on bows that really stand out. Albeit very rigidly created, the beautifully placed pin on the backplate of this very rare Tourte-model viola bow really gets me. The frog is so beautifully proportioned in a manner of Tourte, however it retains such an extreme character of Lamy that it could not have been made by anyone else. The throat is elongated with a slight downturned nose, the eye is still placed slightly set back but it is of much larger proportions than usual. The slide is balanced by the strong margins typically seen in Lamy’s work, and the octagonal stick lends a strength that is evened out by the elegant slightly-early-voirin style head. I’ve only seen one similar example in the Vatelot book on page 503. Simple and wonderfully proportioned, Lamy père was an exceptionally fine metalworker and bowmaker.