A mysterious painting of a nude woman fell from the ceiling of Fleisher Art Memorial's gallery yesterday and now the school's staff is hoping to uncover its story.

Fleisher's exhibition manager, Jose Ortiz Pagan, was running cable in the ceiling of the gallery for the school's annual faculty exhibition when the small nude "kind of fell out on him" from the ceiling, said Dominic Mercier, director of communications for Fleisher.

Nobody knows how the painting got up into the drop ceiling, which Mercier estimates to be about 15 feet high, or how long it's been up there. It's about the size of a legal pad, isn't signed and nobody immediately recognized the subject as one of the nude models who pose at the school, Mercier said.

"It's a lovely painting and the pose is kind of unique, it's not something we see a lot," he said. "It was probably painful for a model to be posing like that for that long."

Mercier said the painting is an oil on board. In it, a nude woman with blue eyes kneels before a brick wall in between potted plants and a bare, little, potted tree.

Fleisher, located on Catharine Street near 7th in the city's Bella Vista section, is one of the nation's oldest community art schools and offers free-and-low-cost art classes and workshops for people of all skill levels. Since yesterday morning, the staff has been dreaming up theories about the painting's past.

"The crux of our theory is that somebody hid it up there for us to find," Mercier said. "I don't think anyone put it up there maliciously to hide it from another student."

Mercier said many students have passed through Fleisher's doors, from a federal court judge to a man who went on to be the chief engraver for the U.S. Mint, and they'd like to know what the person who  hid this painting up in the gallery ceiling is up to today.

"We're really just interested in where it came from," Mercier said. "Is it something that person wants back? Is it something that they put there for us to find? We'd like to know why."

Posted by Stephanie Farr.