"Hart gives the year 1687 as that in which Stradivari made the beautiful set of inlaid instruments for the Spanish Court; but, as we shall see hereafter, this statement is erroneous. If we again refer to Arisi, we learn that Stradivari made a concerto of instruments which he intended to present to Philip V of Spain on the occasion of the passage of that King through Cremona in 1702, for which event he had prepared a memorial; but he was dissuaded, adds Arisi, 'the instruments are still in his possession.' Now, it must be remembered that this interesting information was committed to paper by the worthy monk in 1720, showing that Stradivari had already retained them some years.
In the course of inquiries made both in Italy and Spain, we have been fortunate enough to obtain the subsequent history of the instruments which, we believe, formed this interesting concerto. It consisted of two violins, two violas (one a "tenore"), and a violoncello. They were still in Stradivari's possession at his death in 1737, and then passed to his son Francesco, who, dying in 1742, left them to his brother Paolo, by whom they were sold in the year 1775 to a priest of the name of Padre Brambilla, for the sum Of 125 giliati.
Padre Brambilla took them to Madrid, and there disposed of them to the Spanish Monarch, thus possibly (We say 'possibly' because we have no conclusive proof of the fact. We believe, however, that this concerto of instruments is the identical set that Stradivari wished to present to King Philip.) fulfilling the maker's original intention with regard to their destination. The purchase was most probably due to the musical taste of the Infante Don Carlos, who played the violin. This Prince ascended the throne in 1788 as Charles IV. We learn furthermore that in 1776 Antonio, the son of Paolo Stradivari, at the instigation of Count Cozio de Salabue, tried to repurchase the instruments, but without success. We have ascertained these facts from the correspondence exchanged between Count Cozio, Paolo Stradivari, and his son Antonio."
Antonio Stradivarius: His Life & Work, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), London
The musicians of the Quiroga Quartet from Spain have been named the first artists in residence of the Royal Palace of Madrid, allowing them access to the unique set of decorated Stradivari instruments on display as part of the Royal Collection exhibition.
The residency, instigated by the Patrimonio Nacional, which owns and manages the property and effects of the King of Spain including the Stradivari inlaid set, allows the quartet to give public performances on the instruments at the palace. Performances on the set have taken place for many years before invited guests, but this is the first time they will be heard in public.
Royal Palace of Madrid decorated Stradivari quartet receives first public performance