Quoting Charles Reade from 'Romance of Fiddle Dealing': " Well, one day Georges Chanot, senior, made an excursion to Spain, to see if he could find anything there. He found mighty little, but coming to the shop of a Fiddlemaker, one Ortega, he saw the belly of an old Bass hung up with other things. Chanot rubbed his eyes, and asked himself was he dreaming ? the belly of a Stradivari Bass roasting in a shop window! He went in, and very soon bought it for about forty francs. He then ascertained that the Bass belonged to a lady of rank. The belly was full of cracks ; so, not to make two bites of a cherry, Ortega had made a nice new one. Chanot carried this precious fragment home and hung it up in his shop, but not in the window, for he was too good a judge not to know that the sun will take all the colour out of that maker's varnish. Tarisio came in from Italy, and his eye lighted instantly on the Stradivari belly. He pestered Chanot till the latter sold it him for a thousand francs,and told him where the rest was. Tarisio no sooner knew this than he flew to Madrid. He learned from Ortega where the lady lived, and called on her to see it. ' Sir,' says the lady, ' it is at your disposition.* That does not mean much in Spain. When he offered to buy it, she coquetted with him, said it had been long in her family; money could not replace a thing of that kind, and, in short, she put on the screw, as she thought, and sold it him for about four thousand francs. What he did with the Ortega belly is not known; perhaps sold it to some person in the toothpick trade. He sailed exultant for Paris with the Spanish Bass in a case. He never let it go out of his sight. The pair were caught by a storm in the Bay of Biscay; the ship rolled; Tarisio clasped his Bass tightly and trembled. It was a terrible gale, and for one whole day they were in real danger. Tarisio spoke of it to me with a shudder. I will give you his real words, for they struck me at the time, and I have often thought of them since. 'Ah, my poor Mr. Reade, the Bass of Spain was all but lost'.
"Was not this a true connoisseur—a genuine enthusiast ? Observe, there was also an ephemeral insect called Luigi Tarisio, who would have gone down with the Bass ; but that made no impression on his mind. De minimis non curat Ludovicus! " He got it safe to Paris. A certain high-priest in these mysteries, called Vuillaume, with the help of a sacred vessel, called the glue-pot, soon re-wedded the back and sides to the belly, and the Bass now is just what it was when the ruffian Ortega put his finger in the pie. It was sold for 20,000 fr. (,£800). I saw the Spanish Bass in Paris twenty-five years ago, and you can see it any day this month you like, for it is the identical Violoncello now on show at Kensington numbered 188. Who would divine its separate adventures, to see it all reposing so calm and uniform in that case? -- 'Post tot naufragia tutus' "
The Violin: Its Famous Makers and their Imitators, George Hart, The Violin: Its Famous Makers and their Imitators, London