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Da Vinci portrait of Christ sells for record $450 million in New York

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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ “Salvator Mundi” sold for a record-smashing $450.3 million on Wednesday at Christie’s in New York — more than double the old mark for any work of art at auction.

The painting, which once sold for a mere $125, was only recently rediscovered. It was the last da Vinci left in private hands and fetched more than four times the Christie’s pre-sale estimate of about $100 million.

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The price was more than twice the old record for any work of art, set by Picasso’s “Les Femmes D’Alger,” which sold for $179.4 million in May 2015.

“Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) was purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a protracted bidding war that stretched to nearly 20 minutes at the New York auction house.

The restored portrait, an ethereal depiction of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, is one of fewer than 20 paintings by the Renaissance artist known to still exist.

First recorded in the private collection of King Charles I, the work was auctioned in 1763 before vanishing until 1900, by which time Christ’s face and hair had been painted over — once a “quite common” practice, according to Alan Wintermute, Christie’s senior specialist for Old Master paintings.

Sold at Sotheby’s to an American collector in 1958 for only 45 pounds (then about $126), it again sold in 2005 as an overpainted copy of the masterwork.

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The new owner started the restoration process, and after some six years of research it was authenticated as da Vinci’s more than 500-year-old masterpiece, which culminated in a high-profile exhibition at London’s National Gallery in 2011.

Christie’s did not identify the seller other than to say it was a European private collector who acquired the work after its rediscovery in 2005 and lengthy restoration.

But media reports identified him as Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who paid $127.5 million in 2013 in a private sale.

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The painting stands as the first discovery of a da Vinci painting since 1909.

(Reporting by Chris MichaudEditing by Sandra Maler)

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GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy fumes at reporter for asking if he still believes Trump was paid by Putin

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House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Thursday was asked about his previous comments suggesting that Donald Trump was on Vladimir Putin’s payroll.

"In 2016, you said then-candidate Trump was one of two people who are paid by Putin, the other being former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher," said Breakfast Media correspondent Andrew Feinberg. "Do you still believe that?"

"It was a joke. That's embarrassing that you would even ask that," McCarthy quickly shot back.

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A censure compromise is the GOP’s best option – but Trump is making it impossible: conservative columnist

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In an op-ed for the conservative outlet The Bulwark, Benjamin Parker argues that when it comes to censure as a "compromise" to impeachment, that potential compromise is a model that President Trump himself has taken off the table.

Just like during the Bill Clinton era, party members leading the impeachment effort know that they won't get the Senate votes to convict. "The censure compromise was an effort by the president’s defenders to end the impeachment process early. It failed in 1998 because Republicans were determined to demonstrate their fidelity to the rule of law and to enforce a high standard of conduct for public officials," Parker writes, adding that Democrats today find themselves in a similar position. "At this point, Trump’s defenders should be suggesting a censure measure as a possible compromise just as Democrats did in 1998. ... Even if a compromise on censure appears unreachable, the Republicans should make the offer on the off chance that it works."

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Fresno Bee burns Nunes to the ground in scathing editorial

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The editorial board of the Fresno Bee has written a scathing takedown of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for his extraordinary fealty to President Donald Trump, which the editors say is harming the country.

Specifically, the editorial accuses Nunes of forsaking his oath of office as a congressman to serve as Trump's most loyal toady on the House Intelligence Committee.

"As has been true for nearly all of Trump’s first term, Nunes has relinquished his proper role as an independent representative of Congress and has instead acted like a member of the Trump 2020 re-election team," the editorial states.

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