Rhoda Delaval (1725 - 1757) and her brother Francis Blake Delaval (1727- 1771), as children
attributed to Jeremiah Davison (Scotland c.1695 – London after 1750) and Joseph van Aken (c. 1699 - 1749)
Art / Oil paintings
Oil on canvas
1651 x 1295 mm (65 x 51 in)Order this image
Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland
This double portrait shows the two eldest children of Captain Francis Blake Delaval (1692 - 1752) and Rhoda Apreece (d.1759), daughter of Robert Apreece and Sarah Hussey. Their daughter, Rhoda’s marriage in 1751 to Edward Astley, later 4th Bt. (1729 – 1802) of Melton Constable, ultimately brought Seaton Delaval into the Astley family. She was a talented artist, taught by Pond, who had been brought to Seaton Delaval by her father. Her brother, Sir Francis, was an idle, debauched, rake. He loved the theatre and practical jokes, but he soon accumulated vast debts. He dabbled at being an MP, followed by a short stint in the army. He was involved in the siege of St Malo in Brittany, after which Sir Francis was awarded a knighthood for bravery for being the first to storm the beach – on which, however, there happened to be no opposition.
Oil painting on canvas, Rhoda Delaval (1725 - 1757) and her brother Francis Blake Delaval (1727 – 1771), as children, attributed to Jeremiah Davison (England c.1695 - London 1745) & Joseph Van Aken (Antwerp c.1699-London 1749); inscribed, top left in flowing white script: Francis & Rhoda Delaval, circa 1734/35. Both full-length portraits, he wearing a grey coat and embroidered waistcoat, with his left hand on a dog; she wearing a white satin dress and carrying a basket of flowers.
The two eldest children of Captain Francis Blake Delaval (1692 - 1752) and Rhoda Apreece (d.1759), daughter of Robert Apreece and Sarah Hussey. Rhoda’s marriage in 1751 to Edward Astley, later 4th Bt. (1729 – 1802) of Melton Constable, ultimately brought Seaton Delaval into the Astley family. She was a talented artist, taught by Pond, who had been brought to Seaton Delaval by her father. Rhoda died in childbirth, having borne him three sons and a daughter. On her death, her husband went to live with his children at Melton Constable. Their son, Jacob (1756 – 1817) inherited the Delaval estates in 1814. Rhoda left various letters dating to the years after her marriage, which provide insight into C18th society life in Northumberland. Her brother Francis was the character behind many of the practical jokes, for which the ‘Gay Delavals’ were famous. Early on he was lured by London and, according to Walpole, an Italian lady called the ‘Tedeschi’ (probably the Venetian opera singer, Caterina Tedeschi), although, having found her ‘in flagrante’, he was driven to horsewhipping her lover. He kept an illegitimate cousin, Betty Roach, as his long-term mistress in London, and she bore him two children, Francis and Frances [!]. She had been sent to Seaton Delaval on the death of her guardians in the hope of a sheltered upbringing. She later married an Irish Baronet, Sir Henry Echlin, but still smitten with Francis, left him, only to spend her later years alone. Francis led an idle life, centred around the theatre and theatrical circles, accumulating vast debts in the process. In order to settle his debts, he married, on 10 March 1750, Isabella, the widowed daughter of 6th Earl of Thanet. Some sixty years of age and going senile, and – more importantly - with a reputed fortune, she was seemingly well-placed to solve his financial problems. Her fortune was not, however, as handsome as he had hoped. Nevertheless, in ‘celebration’ of the marriage, in 1752 Francis spent £1500 to hire the Drury Lane Theatre, where the Delavals staged a production of Othello, Sir Francis playing the eponymous hero. Isabella later sued Francis for committing adultery with Betty Roach, but lost the case, eventually dying in obscurity. By October 1766 Francis had had his own private theatre in St. James’s Street fitted out by Richard Edgeworth. The family staged The Fair Penitent, with the family taking part, as well the Duke of York, who played the seducer, Lothario. He managed to be elected as an MP for various different seats, but did little work. However, in 1758, he enlisted in the army, finding himself part of an expeditionary force ordered to attack the Brittany coast at St Malo. He was the first to storm the beach, but his bravery was not entirely merited – there was no opposition to greet him! For being the first Grenadier to storm the beach he was awarded a knighthood. Having left the army soon after, the story, did however, provide him with a tale to dine out on. He succeeded his father in 1752, at which point he invited some four thousand people to watch fire eaters, rope walkers and conjurers performing at Seaton Delaval. Although he lived in London, he spent considerable time there, especially in 1765 when he rebuilt the stable block, which he had likened to Lord Hoptoun’s, with stone divisions of the stalls. Debts continued to amount, such that Francis gave up most of his inheritance in return for an annual allowance, and his brother John was left in control of some of the estates, of which he had entire control by 1770. On 7th August 1771, after a huge meal, he collapsed and died at the age of 44. within hours, creditors were besieging the house. His funeral, at Seaton Delaval, fittingly, became a public spectacle. (for full biographies see M. Green, The Delavals. A Family History, Newcastle, pp.44 ff. & 49 ff.) Anthony Mould has suggested a possible attribution to Jeremiah Davison (c.1695 – 1745). This may be more plausible than that of Highmore, since the faces are of more conventional shapes than this, whilst the pose and dress of Rhoda suggest the assistance of a drapery painter, whom Davison - but not, apparently, Highmore - used. Francis Blake Delaval's subsequent employment of an inferior portrait painter, Arthur Pond, was presumably because he could also get that less fashionable painter to teach his children.
Marks and inscriptions
Top left, in flowing white script: Francis & Rhoda Delaval
Makers and roles
attributed to Jeremiah Davison (Scotland c.1695 – London after 1750) and Joseph van Aken (c. 1699 - 1749), artist attributed to Joseph Highmore (London 1692 – Canterbury 1780), artist