FAMOUS violins crafted by Antonio Stradivari in the 18th century will be displayed in the UK for the first time next week.

The Ashmolean Museum launches its ‘Stradivarius’ exhibition next Thursday, boasting a collection of 21 violins which are regarded as some of the finest musical instruments ever made.

A number of the pieces have never been seen in public and the collection has been flown in from across the globe.

Senior curator of European art and exhibition organiser Dr Jon Whiteley said: “We are extremely grateful to the institutions and private owners who have generously lent their instruments.

“To bring together so many rare and important violins – by the greatest maker of all time – is an extraordinary event and one which I hope our many visitors will enjoy.”

One gallery at the exhibition will recreate Stradivarius’ workshop with his original tools, wooden models and patterns, donated by the Stradivari museum in northern Italy.

Recordings and interviews with leading players will also allow visitors to hear the instruments and gain an insight into why they are so highly regarded by musicians.

A gala concert by violinist James Ehnes is being held at the Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, on Friday, June 14.

Mr Ehnes said: “Performing on a Stradivarius is a dream come true for a string player.

“The beauty of tone, range of dynamics, and possibilities for tonal nuance in a great Stradivarius is unsurpassed.”

The Ashmolean exhibition runs until August 1. For more information, go to ashmolean.org