A Franco-British tug of love and money has broken out over a painting which disappeared from a Toulouse museum in 1818.

The French Government has barred the removal from France of Christ Portant la Croix (Christ Carrying the Cross), a painting by 17th-century Franco-German artist Nicolas Tournier, which turned up in Florence in 2009 after being missing for almost two centuries.

It was recently offered for sale for about €675,000 ($1.67 million) by a London art dealer.

The painting, now owned by the Weiss Gallery in London, went on show in Paris at the weekend after months of negotiations on its possible re-sale to the Toulouse museum.

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The French Culture Ministry declared yesterday that the painting was "stolen goods" and would be reclaimed by the French state.

Its fate is now likely to be the subject of a long legal battle between Mark Weiss, a leading London dealer in 16th and 17th century art, and the French state.

- Independent