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RUBENS PAINTING IS SOLD AT AUCTION FOR $8.2 MILLION

An Old Master painting that helped bring down a Florida savings and loan sold at auction Friday for $8.2 million.

An anonymous buyer won the bidding at Sotheby's for Peter Paul Rubens' "Portrait of a Man as Mars," which was once bought with federally insured deposits by the chairman of a Miami S&L who is now behind bars.

"It is the most important Rubens to come on the auction market in the last generation," said Sotheby's spokesman Mathew Weigman.

The sale price was a record for this artist at auction.

In 1989 Florida banking officials discovered that the 17th century portrait and two dozen other artworks -- a $29 million collection -- had been purchased with funds from the strapped CenTrust Savings and Loan. The buyer was David L. Paul, the S&L's chairman and chief executive.

Paul had bought the Rubens for $13.2 million from the widow of Samuel Kress, founder of the five-and-dime store empire, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sotheby's would not confirm the figure.

In 1990 CenTrust was taken over by the federal government in one of the biggest American S&L failures. The thrift was liquidated and sold.

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