A temporary export ban has been placed on a rare painting by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens in a race to try and find a buyer so it can remain in the UK.

The oil sketch on paper, Head of an African Man Wearing a Turban, could fetch £7.7m because it is one of the few existing examples of 17th-century artwork that depicts an African man in Europe.

The arts minister, Michael Ellis, who imposed the temporary bar on the painting that has been in the UK for more than 100 years, said: “Rubens was one of the great artists of the golden age of painting.

“This powerful sketch is not only a stunning example of his work but hugely important as a rare representation of an African man in Europe at this time. I hope that a buyer can be found so that this outstanding item can be kept in the UK for future generations to enjoy.”

The decision on the export licence application has been deferred until 5 July and this could be pushed back to 5 January 2019 if there is a serious pledge to raise the money for the asking price.

It is hoped the painting may end up in a public collection to help bolster a sense of shared history and heritage and to serve a more diverse audience.

It has been declared as a painting of outstanding aesthetic importance and significance for the study of Rubens’ work by the reviewing committee on the export of works of art and objects of cultural interest. Read more