In a decision that could have implications for the owners of historic houses across the country, Arthur Hazlerigg, of Noseley Hall in Leicestershire, was told by his local council that the paintings were fixtures rather than fittings and must be returned to the walls.
Mr Hazlerigg, the son of Lord Hazlerigg, auctioned nine oil paintings last year to raise money to pay for essential repairs to the building, which is set in 200 acres near Market Harborough. But Harborough District Council issued an enforcement notice, requiring that the paintings be returned to the house.
The paintings, bought by Sir Arthur Hazlerigg during a tour of Italy in the 1720s, were auctioned last September. They have remained in storage in Sotheby's since the sale, which made an estimated pounds 2.4m. Mr Hazlerigg appealed and yesterday the council announced that two of the paintings could be sold but the other seven must be rehung at the hall.
Mike Wilson, the chief executive of Harborough District Council, said: "It should not be forgotten that primary responsibility for safeguarding our architectural and historic environment rests with local authorities. That duty is a heavy burden and in this case I believe we have discharged that duty fairly and impartially."
Mr Hazlerigg, whose family have lived at Noseley Hall since 1419, said that he was considering whether to appeal again. "I am trying to keep this house going and we get no help from anywhere and this is what happens," he said.
"We will put the paintings back on the wall but the house will rot around them and the roof will leak and the rain will ruin the paintings anyway."