Paintings that gave the 18th century British public their first glimpse of a kangaroo and dingo will only stay in the country if a British-based buyer stumps up £5.5m by November after the Government introduced a temporary export bar.
Potential buyers need to find the sizeable sum of cash to keep the two George Stubbs oil paintings, The Kongouro From New Holland (The Kangaroo) and Portrait of a Large Dog (The Dingo), in the UK, otherwise it is likely overseas buyers will snatch it.
The paintings, dated 1772, brought to public attention the exotic animals from Australia for the first time.
However even Stubbs had not seen the animals for himself.
Stubbs was unable to paint the creatures from life so worked from spoken accounts, and in the case of the kangaroo, from sketches and after inflating the preserved skin.
First shown in 1773 at the Royal Academy, the works are thought to have been commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks following his part in Captain James Cook's first voyage of discovery to the Pacific.
The temporary export bar was announced today by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.
His ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee On The Export Of Works Of Art And Objects Of Cultural Interest.
Committee chairman Lord Inglewood said: "It would be a terrible shame if the UK were to lose these extraordinary paintings to an overseas buyer.
"They were the British public's first introduction to these exotic animals from the Australasian New World which was opening up at that time."
The export bar remains in place until August 5, and can be extended until November 5 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the paintings at £5.5 million is made.