THE National Gallery of Scotland is to lose a £20m work by JMW Turner after its aristocratic Scots owners decided they needed the cash for estate upgrades.
The renowned 1836 work, Rome, from Mount Aventine, is one the English artist’s most famous pieces .
The work has been owned by the Rosebery family, based at Dalmeny House, near Edinburgh, since 1878.
The painting was loaned to the gallery in 1978 and has been on public view ever since.
A spokeswoman for the gallery confirmed: “It wasn’t ours to begin with. It came to us in 1978 and went out on exhibition around the world.
It’s a private matter for the Rosebery family that we at the Scottish gallery couldn’t possibly comment on.”
In a statement the family said: “For the last 40 years or so, the painting has been on loan to major museums, and we have drawn much pleasure from knowing that so many people have had the opportunity to see and enjoy it.
“Now, in order to maintain the estates for which we are responsible, and to safeguard their future, we have made the decision to sell it.
“We dearly hope that this magnificent picture will bring as much joy to its new owners as it has both to us and to the public over so many years.”
The painting still has hairs from Turner’s paintbrush visible on the canvas.
Sotheby’s say the sale represents a “rare and exciting” opportunity to acquire a seminal work in British art history.
The oil on canvas was commissioned by Hugh Munro of Novar and took seven years to complete.
It depicts the Tiber coursing through the Eternal City.