Chapter 2. The Case of the Dodford Priory
Priory: A convent of either sex subject to an abbey. (L. prior, -oris, former)
I had purchased the painting for all the wrong reasons. I knew it was not genuine, but I wanted to believe it was.
The Dodford Priory was located within the county of Hereford and Worcester, England, and was founded in 1184. It fell within the confines of the Royal Forest of Feckenham and had yearly land and rents to the value of 4 pounds 17 shillings in 1291. The priory was a small cell of Augustinian canons and was never wealthy. It was annexed by the Premonstratensian monastry of Halesowen in 1332 and became a cell of that abbey.
Dodford Priory, artist unknown, circa 1850
By 1500 only one canon remained serving the chapel. In 1536 the Abbot of Halesowen surrendered the manor and priory of Dodford to the king, who granted them in the same year to Sir John Dudley. Following the dissolution, the priory was rebuilt as a farmhouse in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Further alterations were carried out in the mid-19th century and again in the late 20th century when the building was converted into a private house.
Peter De Wint (1784-1849) was born in Stone, Staffordshire of Dutch-American descent. Apart from a visit to France in 1828 and to North Wales in 1829 he painted only English landscapes, almost exclusively in watercolour. Although early in his career he did several oil paintings, especially the flat country around Lincoln, he rarely signed his work.
These apparently unrelated pieces of information came together in the form of a small, 6 x 9 inch oil on prepared millboard painting I purchased at auction several years ago. The painting was of a large mansion with outbuildings and two figures and two cows in the foreground. The mansion appeared to be situated between two hills which framed the structure on each side. The painting was unframed, however, it was contained in a gold coloured wooden liner, with the name Peter De Wint printed lower centre. I had seen similar liners with the artists name in frames particular to watercolours under glass. The liner had most likely been at some time part of a frame surrounding a De Wint watercolour.
The work was signed P. De Wint, lower right, I suppose to match the printed name on the liner and to imply a sense of authenticity to the work. On the rear, a Winsor and Newton manufacturers label attested to the fact that the board was made between 1840 and 1861. Upon closer examination of the rear of the liner I discovered, written in pencil, the words Dodford Priory.
Not a work by P. De Wint but a rendering of the Dodford Priory as it appeared circa 1850, by an amateur, perhaps a previous owner of the priory.
I have since reunited the painting, artist unknown, to the present owner of the Dodford Priory.
Next: The Case of the First Wife