Unless a British gallery or museum can pay its price tag, a landscape by the seminal English artist Thomas Gainsborough is unlikely to leave the United Kingdom in the near future.
The U.K. has barred the export of Going to Market, Early Morning, a 1773 Gainsborough painting that was bought at Sotheby’s this past July in London for £8 million ($10.3 million). That buyer, whose identity has still not yet been publicly revealed, filed an application to remove the work from the U.K., the Guardian reported, but on Monday, the British government’s arts minister, Helen Whately, said the work could not leave the country. The ban was placed following the advice of the U.K.’s reviewing committee on the export of works of art and objects of cultural interest.
“Gainsborough is one of the greatest British landscape artists and his work still wows audiences more than 250 years later,” Whately told the Guardian. “This piece is a superb example and I hope that a U.K. buyer can be found so we can find a new home for this work in our national collection.”
The canvas depicts a group on horseback traveling through the English countryside and passing a destitute mother with a baby. Gainsborough is sometimes credited with establishing landscape as a legitimate category of painting in Britain, along with the Welsh painter Richard Wilson. In addition to producing landscapes, Gainsborough was also one of the most prolific portraitists of late 18th-century England, receiving commissions to paint portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte.
The export bar is in effect until March 22, though it could be extended until September 22 if a prospective buyer raises significant funds. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport will also consider offers for Going to Market, Early Morning from public bodies below the recommended price.