British Government Imposes Temporary Export Bar on £18.5m J.M.W. Turner Painting

In July 2017, J.M.W Turner's Ehrenbreitstein went under the hammer at Sotheby's London and was sold to an undisclosed foreign buyer for £18.5m. Just when the painting was about to leave the UK for the first time, the British government decided to impose a temporary export bar on the painting in a bid to keep the painting with great historical significance inside the country.

J.M.W. Turner, known as "the painter of light", is widely regarded as Britain's foremost artist

Ehrenbreitstein is one of the only six major Turner paintings in private hands. It was painted in 1835, a period that is considered as the artist's peak. Other works from this time now hang in prominent museums around the world.

Image of Ehrenbreitstein nowadays

The work depicts the ruined fortress of Ehrenbreitstein near Coblenz, a place that held particular resonance for Turner. He painted this oil painting specifically for his close friend and engraver John Pye. The painting, also the only oil painting of Ehrenbreitstein by Turner, was first shown at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1835.

Estimated at £17m - 25m, Ehrenbreitstein fetched £18,533,750 (buyer's premium included) at Sotheby's Old Masters Evening Sale in London in July last year. It was acquired by an overseas collector.

In an attempt to keep this important masterpiece of English national treasure inside the UK, the arts minister Michael Ellis has imposed a temporary export bar on the painting, valid until 28 May, allowing time for a UK buyer or museum to pay the price of £18,533,750, plus a value-added tax of £306,750.


J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), Ehrenbreitstein

Auction house: Sotheby's London
Sale: O
ld Masters Evening Sale
Lot offered: 70
Sale date: 2017/7/6
Lot no.: 21
Size: 93 x 123cm

  • Sold directly by the artist, in 1844, to one of his most important patrons, Elhanan Bicknell (1788–1861), Carlton House, Herne Hill, Dulwich;
  • His sale, London, Christie’s, 25 April 1863, lot 118, to Agnew’s on behalf of Ralph Brocklebank;
  • Ralph Brockelbank (1803–1892), Childwall Hall, Liverpool;
  • By descent to his second son, Thomas Brocklebank (1841–1919);
  • By descent to his third son, Captain Henry Cyril Royds Brocklebank, CBE, RN (1874–1957);
  • Sold by his trustees through Agnew’s in 1942 to Wentworth Beaumont, 2nd Viscount Allendale (1890–1956);
  • By descent to his son, Wentworth Hubert Charles Beaumont, 3rd Viscount Allendale (1922–2002);
  • By whom sold (The Property of the Rt. Hon. The Viscount Allendale), London, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1965, lot 90, to Agnew’s, acting on behalf of an English private collector;
  • Thence by descent.

Estimate: £17,000,000 - 25,000,000
Price realized: £18,533,750 (buyer's premium included)