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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has barred the export of one of Dutch master Rembrandt's finest portraits in the hope of finding a buyer willing to match its 35 million pound ($54 million) asking price and extend its 250-year-long stay in the country.
The Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet, painted in 1657, first came to Britain in the early 18th century. It has been on loan and on public display at the National Museum of Wales and most recently at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey said on Friday he had placed a temporary export ban on the painting, which shows a wealthy lady from Amsterdam sat in a darkened room next to her pet parrot.
Auction house Sotheby's told Reuters it had overseen the private sale of the painting from a British family to an overseas buyer in June. The department of culture put the figure at 35 million pounds.
A British institution or individual will now have the right to buy the work before February next year. The export ban can be extended to October if a serious attempt to raise the funds is being made.
"This Rembrandt painting has been enjoyed by the UK public for more than 250 years and provides a fascinating glimpse into history, helping us to better understand how society and art have evolved over the centuries," Vaizey said in a statement.
Reporting by Angus Berwick; editing by Stephen Addison