possibly Rhoda Delaval and Alexander van Aken or Joseph van Aken, Six Children of Rhoda and Francis Blake Delaval

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Doddington Hall
Six Children of Rhoda and Francis Blake Delaval
Drawing Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 230 cm, Overall width: 180 cm
possibly Rhoda Delaval (1725-1757) and Alexander van Aken (1701-1757) or Joseph van Aken (c.1699-1749)
Catalogue Number


According to family tradition the children featured in the painting are the younger Delaval siblings. To the left, standing, are the twins, George and Henry, with the youngest brother, Ralph, seated holding a porte crayon. To the right are the three younger sisters, Anne, Elizabeth Mary and Sarah. Given that Sarah was born in 1742, a date for the picture of around 1745 would appear to be about right. On the reverse of the canvas is inscribed the name ‘Van Hawken’. The artist in question is therefore presumably either Alexander or Joseph van Aken, who were well-established London drapery painters. Traditionally, it is stated that the heads of the six Delaval children, which are painted on separate squares of canvas and sewn into the larger canvas, are by their elder sister, Rhoda Delaval (1725–1757), who would then have been aged around twenty years old. At this time Rhoda was receiving tutoring in painting from Arthur Pond. Taking likenesses of her younger siblings would, therefore, have been useful practice, and they would, in any event, have been her most readily available models. If Rhoda Delaval was responsible for painting the children’s heads, they were probably executed at the family’s townhouse in London or one of the Delaval’s country residences, Ford Castle or Seaton Delaval, and subsequently incorporated into the larger canvas in London by Van Aken. If, as it might be supposed, the children’s heads were painted not by Rhoda but by a professional painter, the comparative lack of sophistication in style and technique suggest a provincial hand. On balance, Rhoda Delaval would seem to be a more likely candidate.

Oliver Millar, who inspected the picture in 1952, stated ‘[?Hussy], Ralph, Rhoda, Anne and Sarah Delaval: said to have been painted in 1747 by their sister: a large group of children, pretty poor, but not obviously the work of an amateur’.1 The picture presently hangs in the Drawing Room. In the late nineteenth century, as noted by Cole, it hung outside the room on the landing.

by Martin Postle


  1. Oliver Millar, Notebook VIII, 193, Paul Mellon Centre Collection.


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