Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Turner painting in UK export ban

The painting shows Pope's villa by the River Thames

A painting by JMW Turner has been made the subject of a temporary export ban in a bid to keep the artwork in the UK.

Pope's Villa at Twickenham, painted in 1808, was sold at Sotheby's auction house in London for 5.4m, in July.

The work depicts the former home of poet Alexander Pope, who commissioned the villa using the proceeds from his translation of Homer's Iliad.

Culture minister Barbara Follett has placed on a ban on it leaving the UK. The ban will be reviewed in February.

The ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

'Exceptional' work

The committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting "is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune".

It was also deemed to be "of outstanding significance for the study of the connections between painting and poetry, and of the history of the preservation of our national heritage".

Pope commissioned the villa in 1719 and lived in it for a quarter of a century.

But Lady Howe, who owned the villa in the early 19th Century, was so bothered by the tourists who still came to see it that she had it demolished.

Turner, who was one of the first artists in the UK to press for the preservation of heritage, was outraged at the apparent disregard for the legacy of Pope's memory.

Lord Inglewood, chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: "Although a work of high aesthetic quality, it is this literary association which makes Turner's painting exceptional.

"Its call to prevent the senseless destruction of our heritage resonates down the centuries to our own time, and is as relevant now as it was then."

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 9 February 2009.

This period may be extended until 9 June if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of 5,417,250 is made.

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