The painting, depicting the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein a military ruin perched on a rock above Coblenz in Germany, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s in July for a hammer price of £17m and the buyer subsequently sought a licence to take it out of the country.
Arts minister Michael Ellis issued the temporary export bar on the oil painting and is seeking a buyer in the UK to match the total price of £18.53m (plus VAT of £306,750).
He said: “This rich, atmospheric painting demonstrates Turner’s extraordinary skill depicting light, as well as the close relationship between painting and poetry.”
The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.
RCEWA member Lowell Libson said it is one of Turner’s “finest works of the period” and made the recommendation on the grounds of the painting’s outstanding significance for the study of its status as a literary landscape and as a painting made primarily for engraving.
The decision on the export licence application will be deferred until May 28. This may be extended until November if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made.
The 1835 oil on canvas was painted for the publisher John Pye and, having changed hands a number of times since, it was last on the market in July 1965 when it appeared at Sotheby’s and was knocked down at £88,000 (a then-record for a British painting) to London dealers Agnew’s.