Buyer pays over $200,000 for painting, but can't take it home

niagara falls thomas davies art
The U.K. government is barring an art buyer from exporting this Niagara Falls painting.

Imagine buying a work of art for over $200,000 at a Christie's auction and then learning that you can't take it home.

That's exactly what happened to one buyer who recently paid £146,500 ($217,000) for an historic British painting.

The U.K. government announced it has blocked the buyer from taking the watercolor out of the country because it wants the work of art to remain in Britain.

The painting, completed in 1762 by the British captain Thomas Davies, is being called "the very first eyewitness representation of Niagara Falls."

The government considers it a culturally significant work because it was painted during a time when the British empire was expanding across North America.

It was purchased in April at a Christie's auction, but the government hopes another buyer will come forward and agree to keep the artwork in the U.K.

"I hope that the temporary export bar I have put in place will result in a U.K. buyer coming forward ... [so] the watercolour will be available for all to better understand Britain's global role in the 18th century," said Ed Vaizey, the British minister of culture.

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The government has previously barred the export of other important cultural items, including paintings by Cezanne and Rembrandt.

Even celebrity singer Kelly Clarkson was barred from exporting a Jane Austen ring from the U.K. after buying the item at auction. The ring was eventually purchased from Clarkson by a U.K.-based Jane Austen museum.

The government hopes that by blocking the painting from export there will be time for a new, serious buyer to come forward.

It's recommending an asking price of £151,800 ($237,500).

The artist Davies painted three Niagara Falls paintings, according to the government, but this is the only one that remains in the country.

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