OAKLAND, Calif. - A woman who auctioned a painting that belonged to her grandmother, hoping to get a few thousand dollars to pay for her daughter's college tuition, was stunned when the picture fetched $600,000.

The painting, sold Sunday by Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland to an unnamed New York dealer, has no title or signature, and the gallery couldn't determine its origins.

But Redge Martin, gallery president, said Thursday that the buzz in the art world is that someone thinks it's the lost work of 17th-century Italian master Pier Francesco Mola.

Mola paintings hang in several museums. The highest price paid for his work appears to be $2.8 million, although several have sold for $100,000 or less, Martin said.


The painting shows a gray-haired, bearded man working on papers with an armillary sphere _ an instrument used in ancient astronomy _ in the background.

The seller inherited the painting, which had been given to her grandmother and hung for years in her home in Pisa, Italy.

When the family's oldest daughter was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley, the seller decided to see what it would bring. The final selling price, with the buyer's premium, was $620,900.

http://www.bismarcktribune.com/articles/2007/02/09/ap/strange/d8n5uu1o0.txt