A £3 million painting of The Virgin and Child by the Spanish Old Master Murillo has been temporarily barred from export while "last chance" efforts are made to keep it in the UK.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey made the ruling following a recommendation by a committee administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest recommended that an export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting is of "outstanding aesthetic importance".
The 17th century painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo is described as "one of the greatest artists of the Spanish Golden Age".
He made several versions of the Virgin and Child, but the early work is seen as a particularly fine example because of the tender way in which the figures gaze at each other.
Professor David Ekserdjian, reviewing committee member, said: "Although there are already quite a few paintings by Murillo in UK public collections, most of them are later in date.
"There is an emotional seriousness about this early work which raises it above almost all Murillo's other paintings of the same subject."
The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred until September 18 inclusive.
This may be extended until January 18 next year inclusive if a "serious intention" to raise cash to make a £3 million offer is seen.
Anyone interested in buying the painting should contact the owner's agent through the reviewing committee's secretary on 0121 345 7428.Reuse content