An oil painting by English landscape artist Thomas Gainsborough could leave Britain’s shores unless a UK buyer comes forward for the £8 million work.
Arts minister Helen Whately has placed a temporary export bar on Gainsborough’s Going To Market, Early Morning in the hope that a UK gallery or museum can acquire it for the nation.
The work, painted in 1773, depicts a group travelling on horseback through the countryside passing by a destitute mother with a baby.
Ms Whately said: “Gainsborough is one of the greatest British landscape artists and his work still wows audiences more than 250 years later.
“This piece is a superb example and I hope that a UK buyer can be found so we can find a new home for this work in our national collection.”
Born in Suffolk in 1727, Gainsborough was a founder member of the Royal Academy, later becoming a favourite painter of King George III.
The move follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).
The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred until March 22 2020, but this could be extended until September 22 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.
The recommended price is £7,961,000 plus £234,200 VAT, but offers from public bodies for less “may also be considered”, the department added.