COPY-Painting, once thought a da Vinci, fetches $1.5M

Associated Press - January 29, 2010 3:34 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) - A painting once thought to be by Leonardo da Vinci has fetched $1.5 million at a New York City auction - triple its high estimate.

"Portrait of a Woman, Called La Belle Ferronniere" (lah bell Feh-roh-NYEHR') was purchased by an American collector on Thursday. Sotheby's pre-sale estimate was $500,000.

The painting is believed to be of a Renaissance mistress of the Duke of Milan. It was the subject of almost a century of scholarly discussion and a legal drama.

The artwork was a wedding gift in 1919 to an American car salesman and his wife. They sold it to the Kansas City Art Institute as a Leonardo. But an art dealer pronounced it a fake; they sued him and won.

He might have been right. Most experts now believe the artist was a Leonardo follower.

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