A £35 million Rembrandt which has been in Britain for 250 years could go to a new home overseas unless a last-ditch effort to find a UK buyer succeeds.
The Government has placed a temporary ban on the export of the Portrait Of Catrina Hooghsaet in an effort to find a buyer who can raise the funds needed to keep the painting in the UK.
The export ban will give a potential buyer in the UK until February 15 next year to come forward to secure the Dutch master's work.
Catrina Hooghsaet was a wealthy Amsterdam resident who, at the time of the painting, was married but separated from her husband.
The painting reflects her marital status as, instead of her estranged husband, she is accompanied by her pet parrot - who featured in her will.
The portrait, painted in 1657, is one of the best-known Rembrandt works in the UK. It has been on loan and on public display at the National Museum of Wales, the National Trust's Penrhyn Castle - for which it was bought in 1860 - and most recently at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: "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.
"It's important that paintings, especially one as famous as this, are available for our students to learn from. I hope that the temporary export bar I have put in place will result in a UK buyer coming forward to buy the Rembrandt painting to save it for the nation."
The identity of the painting's seller has been kept confidential and the decision to defer granting an export licence for the portrait followed a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England.
The RCEWA made their recommendation on the grounds of the painting's close association with our history and national life, its outstanding aesthetic importance and its outstanding significance for the study of Rembrandt's art and in particular his late works.
RCEWA member Aidan Weston-Lewis said: "This is an exceptional portrait of a fascinating sitter, about whom there is still much to be discovered. Its departure abroad would be particularly unfortunate in view of its long presence in the UK, notably in Wales, which currently has no publicly-owned painting by Rembrandt."
The decision on the export licence application will be deferred until February 15, although that period could be extended until October 15 2016 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting is made at the recommended price of more than £35 million.