Doddington and the Delavals: collecting and display in the 1760s

Essay by Martin Postle

Doddington and the Delavals: collecting and display in the 1760s

Among the most significant consequences of the extensive refurbishment of the interior of Doddington Hall during the early 1760s was the commissioning of a new series of grand full-length portraits of the Delaval family. These paintings were created by some of the country’s most fashionable artists, including Joshua Reynolds and Francis Cotes, and were presented in a suite of specially commissioned elaborate gilded frames. The intention was to produce an opulent portrayal of a new generation of Delavals, shaped by the owner of Doddington, Sir John Hussey Delaval, and his adult siblings. Here the motivations behind the commissioning of these portraits are considered, as well as their putative connection with the Long Gallery at Doddington and the questions they provoke about the collection and display of Delaval family portraits.

On her death in 1759, Sarah Apreece Delaval bequeathed Doddington Hall to her second son, John Hussey Delaval.1 Immediately, he began to remodel the interior.2 By 1763 the building project was well underway, and the refurbished Long Gallery virtually complete.3 Yet, while the interior of Doddington had been transformed the existing furnishings and picture collection did not meet the requirements of the new owner. Generally, the impression given by an inventory taken in 1760 is one of neglect and dilapidation: old family portraits, superannuated furnishings, tatty carpets, torn curtains and broken china. The Long Gallery was an inhospitable and barren space, furnished with little more than two large tables, three old trunks, a few chairs and ‘three pictures, no frame’s and several other od things’.4 As John Hussey Delaval’s country seat – the first he acquired under his own aegis – Doddington Hall was required to reflect the ascendancy and occupancy of his family.

By the 1750s John had steadily advanced the interests of the Delavals across a range of business enterprises, notably the family’s Northumbrian coalmines. In 1754, supported by Hugh Percy, then Earl of Northumberland, he consolidated his political profile as member of parliament for Berwick upon Tweed. The following year he established his London home in Grosvenor House, Millbank, a handsome seventeenth-century mansion, which was to be his base in the metropolis for the next two decades. And in 1761, shortly after acquiring Doddington, he was made a baronet. John Hussey Delaval’s rapid rise through the social and political ranks created a need for family portraiture commensurate with his public position.

From what is known of the collecting habits of their parents, the commissioning of family portraits from leading London artists and the purchase of old-master paintings, it is clear that John Hussey Delaval and his siblings were exposed to art from an early age. Their knowledge of cosmopolitan society portraiture may also have been shaped by the eldest sibling, Rhoda Delaval, whose artistic training under Arthur Pond must have gained her a network of influential connections. In May 1751 Rhoda married Edward Astley of Melton Constable, Norfolk, although during the early years of their marriage the couple divided their time between Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, and the Delaval townhouse at 10–11 Downing Street. Among the portraits painted of her at this time was a half-length portrait in Turkish costume, attributed here to George Knapton (fig. 1), and a head-and-shoulders portrait by Joshua Reynolds, also in Turkish costume (fig. 2), which has been dated to around 1756.5 Significantly this is the earliest portrait by Reynolds of a member of the Delaval family: it is a new-generation portrait by a young artist rapidly establishing himself as the leading society portraitist in the metropolis.

Half length portrait of Rhoda Delaval in Turkish costume

Figure 1.
George Knapton (attributed to Francis Cotes), Half length portrait of Rhoda Delaval in Turkish costume , circa 1756. Oil on canvas, 124.5 × 99.1 cm. National Trust, Seaton Delaval Hall (1276808).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust Images. (All rights reserved)

Head and shoulders portrait of Rhoda Delaval in Turkish costume

Figure 2.
Joshua Reynolds, Head and shoulders portrait of Rhoda Delaval in Turkish costume, circa 1756. Oil on canvas, 73.5 × 61 cm. Private Collection, Ireland.

Digital image courtesy of Private Collection, Ireland. (All rights reserved)

Joshua Reynolds, born in 1723, was only a couple of years older than Rhoda. By the mid-1750s, following a three-year sojourn in Italy, he represented a new and somewhat controversial spirit in British painting, overturning the hegemony of the previous generation represented by Sir Godfrey Kneller and followers such as Pond and Knapton. In the winter of 1757, a year or so after painting Rhoda Delaval’s portrait, Reynolds painted the portrait of her younger brother, Henry Delaval, in military uniform. This portrait has been identified in the past as Rhoda’s elder brother, Francis Blake Delaval.6 However, the inscription ‘Captain Delaval’ on the portrait, together with a previous acknowledgement that it is not a convincing likeness of Francis Delaval, indicates that it represents Henry Delaval and was commissioned probably to celebrate his promotion in September 1757 to the rank of captain in the 34th Regiment of Foot, commanded by the Earl of Effingham.7

Reynolds’s close engagement with the Delavals in the late 1750s is underlined also by a series of appointments with a ‘Miss Delaval’ in the spring of 1758: some sixteen appointments in total, including six in close succession at 8 a.m. in early May.8 Frustratingly, there is no recorded portrait connected to these sittings, and the specific identity of ‘Miss Delaval’ is unknown. Ellis Waterhouse suggested she was Anne, younger sister of Sir John, who was to sit to Reynolds for a full-length portrait in 1763–64, although David Mannings posited that she may have been one of Sir John’s daughters.9 We are on firmer ground with the third known portrait by Reynolds, commissioned in an act of self-aggrandisement by Francis Blake Delaval, following his impromptu involvement in a minor military coup in the June 1758. That summer, Francis, by now mired in debt, joined a British volunteer corps attached to the Grenadier Guards on an expedition to the French coast, prompted less by valour than an attempt to evade his creditors. In an unlikely turn of events, Francis was in the vanguard of the advance on the beach at St Malo and the subsequent capture of the town, from which he emerged as an unlikely hero – not least because the British encountered virtually no opposition.10 Fêted by fashionable society and received at court, Francis’s heroic persona was confirmed by the creation of a full-length portrait by Reynolds.

It is likely that Francis commissioned the portrait himself, although Reynolds’s receipt confirms that it was paid for by his younger brother, John Hussey Delaval.11 The picture, reminiscent of Reynolds’s innovative ‘action’ portrait of Commodore Augustus Keppel, painted several years earlier, depicts Francis sporting the red uniform of the Grenadier Guards while posing against smoke-filled sky and a backdrop of British troops torching the French harbour. An indication of how much Francis - and presumably other members of his family - admired the portrait is revealed by the existence of at least one full-size replica, several full-length copies, as well as other smaller head-and-shoulders versions.12 As appointments in his sitter-books indicate, Reynolds’s prime full-length version was painted early in 1759, although it may have been worked on later in the year. The full-length copy hanging at Doddington (DN35) may have been painted in the early 1760s for John Hussey Delaval. What is clear, from the replication of Francis’s portrait, is that it marked a watershed in the ambition of the new generation of Delavals as patrons of cutting-edge contemporary portraiture, and paved the way for a series of equally prestigious commissions.

Today, notable among the paintings hanging in the Long Gallery at Doddington are three full-length portraits displayed in highly ornamental and virtually identical frames: a group portrait of the Earl and Countess of Mexborough and their son by Reynolds (DN93), a single full-length portrait of the Countess of Mexborough by Katherine Read (DN88) and a single full-length portrait of the Earl of Mexborough attributed to Benjamin Wilson (DN89). A fourth portrait of Anne Delaval, Lady Stanhope, with Lady Effingham, by Francis Cotes, belonging to York Art Gallery, was quite probably also intended to hang in the Long Gallery. Although all three portraits, with the exception of the Reynolds, have been re-installed in the Long Gallery (and are on long-term loan to Doddington), circumstantial evidence provided by the frames, and aspects of their display history, suggest that they may have formed part of a suite of Delaval portraits intended for display in this space, or have been connected closely with its evolution. Before considering the portraits themselves, we need to address the issue of the shared frame design, since it serves both to complicate and to explain the relationship between these paintings and others in the series. The frames, as well as the portraits, may have been integral to the display strategy in the Long Gallery, providing a unified pictorial statement, and lending an air of grandeur and dynastic entitlement to the newly refurbished space. However, without the supporting evidence of inventories or contemporary accounts, this suggestion must remain at the level of speculation.

The four identical frames that house Delaval family portraits form part of a group of six frames with the same design and a close association with Doddington Hall. A fifth frame, also in the Long Gallery, now holds a religious painting by the seventeenth-century Bolognese master Marcantonio Franceschini (DN103). The frame, which was cut down probably in the nineteenth century to accommodate the present picture, originally contained a portrait attributed to Benjamin Wilson of John Hussey Delaval and his sister Anne, Lady Stanhope, in a performance of Nicholas Rowe’s tragedy The Fair Penitent (DN52). The sixth frame, still in the collection of the Earls of Mexborough, contains a double portrait of the Countess of Mexborough and her son copied from the Reynolds family portrait in the Long Gallery.13 Although we cannot be sure, it is possible that this frame originally contained another original Delaval family portrait rather than the present copy.

The frames were evidently produced during the early to mid-1760s, although exactly when they were made and who was responsible for their manufacture is unknown. It has been suggested that the frames may be associated with a letter by Peter Babell to John Hussey Deleval dated 24 July 1766, where he mentions a ‘border for two Picture Frames’, as well as payment for 70 feet of ‘Paper machee Rich Border in Oil Gild’.14 However, as Jacob Simon has pointed out, Babell was a papier mâché worker, not a carver, and therefore we cannot attribute the set of six frames to him. Simon also notes that although it is not known who carved the suite of frames, it may have been someone of the calibre of Joseph Duffour, one of London’s leading frame makers at this time, who supplied, who supplied elaborate frames to a variety of country house owners, including William Windham at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, and Charles Wyndham, second Earl of Egremont at Petworth. 15

Common to all four frames discussed here are certain features: the armillary sphere at the top centre, surmounting trumpets and, in some instances, a compass; the paired trophy panels with crested helmets at each side; and the shield, arms and armour at the bottom centre. As Richard Green has observed, the original design of the frame may have been predicated by the recent military exploits of Francis Delaval.16 With this supposition in mind, it is possible that one of the prime versions of the portrait of Francis Delaval by Reynolds was once mounted in such a frame, and that this was the prototype that inspired the others. However, it is also worth considering whether the frame design has a broader and more generic association with the Delaval family and their martial heritage going back to the Norman Conquest. Prominent on the Delaval coat of arms are the figures of two armour-clad knights; one holding a copy of the Magna Carta, the other a banner displaying the arms of William the Conqueror. More recently, John Hussey Delaval’s father had served as an officer in the Royal Navy, while his great-uncle, George Delaval, had held the rank of admiral. Viewed collectively in the setting of the Long Gallery, a space traditionally reserved for dynastic family portraiture, the frames would have enhanced the aura of a powerful Delaval lineage, reminding the viewer of past achievements and present ambition. Another characteristic of the frames is their sheer sense of theatre, appropriate to a family with a deep-seated passion for theatre and performance.

As mentioned earlier, the Delavals had cultivated an interest in the theatre since at least the early 1750s. Leading the way was the irrepressible and wholly irresponsible Francis Blake Delaval. Among Francis’s closest allies in the metropolis was the actor and dramatist Samuel Foote, himself a legendary libertine.17 Encouraged in his theatrical ambitions by Foote, Francis Delaval ran a small theatre in James Street, Petty France, financed by the Duke of York, where he and his entourage performed. Among those associated with the James Street theatre was the artist Benjamin Wilson, a close friend of Edward Delaval with whom he shared interests in science and the theatre.18 Wilson, who became the manager of the James Street theatre, recalled that it was by

the means of my friend Mr. Edward [Hussey] Delaval I became acquainted with Lord Mexboroughs family, Lady Stanhope his [Delaval’s] sister, and Sir ffrancis [Blake] Delaval. I did several pictures for them, and they were particularly kind to me, on many occasions’.19

By the mid- to late 1750s Benjamin Wilson appears to have assumed the role of principal portraitist to the Delaval family. Among the portraits attributed here to Wilson are two pendant full-length seated portraits of Susannah Delaval and John Hussey Delaval (DN86 and DN87), now displayed in the Long Gallery, and previously in the Dining Room.20 The portrait of Susannah Delaval is modelled closely on an earlier portrait of John Hussey Delaval’s mother (DN53), retaining the sitter’s pose while changing the colours of the draperies. The pendant portrait of John Hussey Delaval was also clearly made with his mother’s portrait in mind; employing matching background drapes, column and stone oculus.

A more ambitious commission, referred to earlier, is Benjamin Wilson’s double portrait of John Hussey Delaval and his younger sister, Anne, in character, acting out a scene from The Fair Penitent by Nicholas Rowe (DN52). Today, the portrait survives only as a damaged fragment, displayed over the door in the Tiger Room on the first floor. However, in 1786, as recorded in an inventory of that year, it then hung on the north wall of the Long Gallery, in one of the specially commissioned elaborate gilt frames.21 We can only surmise its original appearance, although as the surviving frame indicates, even in its cut down state, it was a large double full-length composition. The Fair Penitent was a particular favourite of the Delavals, and in April 1767 they staged performances at Francis’s London theatre that attracted considerable comment.22 On this occasion the amateur cast included four of the Delaval siblings, Francis, John, Anne (Lady Stanhope) and Sarah (Lady Mexborough), along with Edward, Duke of York, who starred in the role of Lothario. John Hussey Delaval took on the role of Sciolto opposite his sister Anne, who played Calista. The personae were the ones they adopted in Wilson’s painting, which may well have been made to commemorate the performance. The role of Calista was clearly close to Anne’s heart, since she was also portrayed in the role in a single, possibly full-length, portrait by Wilson, which is now lost but was replicated as a mezzotint by James Basire, published in 1772 (fig. 3).23 A head-and-shoulders portrait of Anne in the same role is at Seaton Delaval.24 Although it has been attributed to Rhoda Delaval, it would appear to be by Wilson. Finally, there is in the Long Gallery a full-length portrait (DN91) inscribed ‘Anne Hussey Delaval’, which would appear also to feature Anne in the role of Calista, although some doubt has been cast on its status as a later eighteenth-century portrait.25

Anne Hussey Delaval, Lady Stanhope, as Calista in The Fair Penitent

Figure 3.
James Basire after Benjamin Wilson, Anne Hussey Delaval, Lady Stanhope, as Calista in The Fair Penitent , 1772. Engraving, 51.8 × 35.6 cm. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG D41862).

Digital image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London. (All rights reserved)

It is clear that during the early 1760s John Hussey Delaval was intent on celebrating the achievements of his younger sisters Anne and Sarah, both of whom had enhanced the social status of the family through marriage. In October 1759 Anne married Sir William Stanhope, younger brother of the eminent statesman Philip Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield. A few months later, in January 1760, Sarah married John Savile, Lord Pollington, of Methley Hall, Yorkshire, who in February 1766 was created first Earl of Mexborough. In addition to the double theatrical portrait of Sir John and Anne, a full-length portrait of Anne was painted by Reynolds in 1763–64 (fig. 4). By now, Anne, Lady Stanhope, was estranged from her husband. It was therefore commissioned either by Sir John Hussey Delaval or by her sister, Lady Pollington.26 The portrait’s status and significance is reinforced by the production of a mezzotint engraving in 1767 by the leading London printmaker James Watson. Anne, like her elder sister Rhoda, was evidently passionate about art. She is also known to have preferred country to town life. Despite her love of the theatre she shunned London’s dizzy social round, her brother-in-law Lord Chesterfield remarking how she ‘chose to amuse herself at home with her books, her drawing, and her music’.27 The precise details of ownership and whereabouts of Reynolds’s portrait during Lady Stanhope’s life is unknown, although it may well have been displayed originally in the Long Gallery at Doddington. Certainly, during the 1760s Lady Stanhope regarded Doddington as home, even a place of refuge and consolation. Following her death in 1812, or perhaps earlier, the portrait passed to the Mexboroughs. It is now in the Baltimore Museum of Art, having been sold by the family to the art dealer C. J. Wertheimer by 1908.26

Anne Hussey Delaval, Lady Stanhope, as Contemplation

Figure 4.
Joshua Reynolds, Anne Hussey Delaval, Lady Stanhope, as Contemplation, 1765. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 146.1 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art (1938.177).

Digital image courtesy of The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Mary Frick Jacobs Collection, BMA 1938.177 / Photo: Mitro Hood. (All rights reserved)

A portrait that may also have hung at one time at Doddington and was highly relevant to the family’s display strategy was Anne, Lady Stanhope and Lady Effingham as Diana and her Companion (fig. 5). This impressive Grand Manner portrait was painted in 1765 by Francis Cotes. It is now in the collection of York Art Gallery, ownership having passed at some time from Lady Stanhope to her sister and brother-in-law, Lord and Lady Mexborough. We cannot be sure, but it may have been Anne’s preference for the countryside and her penchant for performance that informed the elaborate choice of iconography for the allegorical portrait. It is also tempting to dwell on the fondness of the Delavals for their pet greyhounds as a possible pictorial prompt: a similar dog with a gold collar appears in two earlier portraits at Doddington under the ownership of Anne’s brother Edward (DN64 and DN85).

1765, Oil on canvas, 240 × 152.5 cm. Collection York Art Gallery (YORAG : 1414).

Figure 5.
Francis Cotes, The Honourable Lady Stanhope and the Countess of Effingham as Diana, and her Companion, 1765, Oil on canvas, 240 × 152.5 cm. Collection York Art Gallery (YORAG : 1414).

Digital image courtesy of York Museums Trust. (Public Domain)

The choice of Diana as the persona of Lady Stanhope was suggested probably by Cotes, since it was a common enough trope at that time in society portraiture, notably Reynolds’s portrait of Lady Sarah Bunbury sacrificing to the Graces (Art Institute of Chicago), which was exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1765, at the very time Cotes was devising his own composition. The precise circumstances surrounding the friendship between Anne and Catherine Proctor, Lady Effingham, are unknown, although Henry Delaval, who served in Lord Effingham’s regiment may possibly have introduced them. Certainly, the commission coincided with the imminent marriage of Catherine to Thomas Howard, third Earl of Effingham, possibly signalling a watershed in their relationship. It has also been suggested also that the women’s relationship may have been coloured by a mutual interest in performance, possibly in relation to the Delavals’ own amateur theatricals, although, unlike the portrait of Anne and John Delaval, the present work relates more closely to the rituals of masquerade culture than to theatrical performance.29

Viewed in the context of John Hussey Delaval’s ambitions to scale the social ladder, the most significant dynastic development was the marriage of his sister Sarah to John Savile, Lord Pollington, in 1760; this was a relationship underlined by no less than three portraits that hang today in the Long Gallery, including Reynolds’s opulent family group Lord and Lady Pollington in Coronation Robes, with their young son (D93). The coronation of George III took place on 22 September 1761. An event of national significance, it coincided with the completion of the new interiors at Doddington, and provided an ideal opportunity for John Hussey Delaval to celebrate his family’s elevated position and his allegiance to the new monarch. As Reynolds’s pocket book reveals, sittings for the portrait commenced in November 1761. It was completed probably by early 1764, by which time the figure of the couple’s young son (born April 1761) was added.30 Significantly, in terms of the portrait’s completion and associated financial arrangements, Reynolds noted in his pocket book for the week beginning 2 April 1764, ‘Sir John Hussey Delaval Grosvenor House Millbank’ and below, ‘10. Lady Pollington Downing Street’ (‘10’ referring in this instance to 10 Downing Street, rather than the time of a sitting). Given the sheer scale of the portrait, it seems likely that it was transported directly from Reynolds’s studio to Doddington, where it has remained ever since. In the inventory of 1786 it is described as hanging on the south wall of the Long Gallery, where it remains today.31 Its dominant presence in the Long Gallery at Doddington from the mid-1760s says much about the relationship between John Hussey Delaval, his younger sister and her husband, and their role in promoting the Delaval family brand and elevating the family’s status.

As well as the family group, the presence in the Long Gallery of two single portraits of Lord and Lady Pollington underlines their importance in the family hierarchy and John Hussey Delaval’s particular affection for his favourite sister. The portrait of Sarah, Lady Pollington (DN88) was made possibly on the occasion of her marriage. The decision to award the commission to Katherine Read is of particular interest, not least because her portraiture was then fashionable in court circles following her commission in 1761 to paint the portrait of the young Queen Charlotte. The commission of a full-length portrait of Sarah by Read was also presumably dictated by Sarah’s purchase from Read of a head-and-shoulders portrait (DN62), which may have served as a model for the larger work. The artist responsible for the pendant portrait of Lord Pollington (DN89) is identified here as Benjamin Wilson.32 Lord Pollington is depicted in parliamentary robes, having been elected in December 1761 as member for New Shoreham. Although Pollington was inactive as a politician, and appeared to have had no strong allegiance to either party, his representation in the Long Gallery in his parliamentary role must have bolstered the Delavals’ extended family’s public image as a new wave of movers and shakers in the political establishment.

By the mid-1760s John Hussey Delaval’s vision for an enhanced public image of the new generation of Delavals through contemporary family portraiture appears to have been accomplished. Investigations into the furnishings and paint surfaces of the Long Gallery indicate that the walls were painted in a vivid peacock blue, with blue upholstery to match (fig. 6), creating a magnificent candle-lit coup de theatre during the evening for family and guests alike. Unfortunately, for John, the undoubted master of ceremonies, it was to prove a short-term investment.

Blue upholstery fabric used in the Long Gallery, Doddington Hall

Figure 6.
Blue upholstery fabric used in the Long Gallery, Doddington Hall, Doddington Hall & Gardens.

Digital image courtesy of Martin Postle. (All rights reserved)

August 1771 witnessed the untimely death of Francis Blake Delaval. Having expired in the Mexboroughs’ townhouse in Dover Street, his body was conveyed in great state to Northumberland for burial in the family vault at Seaton Delaval. John, who was now the eldest brother, seized ownership of his brother’s former seat. As a result, Doddington’s new-found status as the premier family country residence began to wane. Francis Delaval’s death also precipitated a spectacular falling-out among the remaining siblings, as they fought for possession of the family’s wealth and property portfolio. Rightfully Edward Delaval, as second son, should have assumed ownership of Doddington, but John, who wished his son, also John, to be heir of Doddington, paid Edward an annuity to stay away. Sadly for John Hussey Delaval, a few years later in 1775 his son died suddenly, aged nineteen. Following his son’s interment in the chapel at Doddington, Sir John distanced himself physically from the property. And in order to curtail any future financial benefits to Edward, he felled the trees on the estate, creating a barren and inhospitable landscape.33 Increasingly, John Hussey Delaval proved a restless spirit, moving frequently from house to house; from town to country and back again. As it has been observed, ‘barely had his great houses become attuned to the routine of the master being in residence when he had moved on again’.34 When he was not in residence, Sir John made it clear that no one else should enjoy the benefit of his properties, telling one of his relatives that he would ‘never for the future give permission to any person whomsoever to be in any houses of mine even for a night when not therein myself’.35

While John Hussey Delaval focused his interests and his activities in London and Northumberland, Doddington none the less remained a family home. The inventory of 1786 indicates that a number of paintings associated with the Delavals remained in situ, although identifying specific works is difficult given the generalised descriptions. We can deduce that the three large family portraits noted in the Large Drawing Room on the first floor must be the same portraits associated with Arthur Pond dating from the 1740s (DN55, DN57 and DN64), transported presumably by John Hussey Delaval to Doddington from London or Seaton Delaval in the 1760s. Conversely, in the Long Gallery only the large portrait of the Mexborough family and the large double portrait of John Hussey Delaval and Lady Anne Stanhope in The Fair Penitent can be identified definitely. If the other Grand Manner portraits in the series were ever assembled together in the Long Gallery there is no evidence of their presence now.

During the 1770s, as he transferred his affections back to Northumberland, Sir John continued to commission family portraits, notably a series of full-lengths by the Newcastle-based artist William Bell. Although these portraits (fig. 7) have a naïve charm, they are not of the same calibre as the earlier commissions from Cotes, Reynolds and Read. It is also fascinating to learn that in 1796, by which time Sir John had virtually ceased to commission his own family portraits, he purchased at the posthumous studio sale of Sir Joshua Reynolds the prestigious full-length portrait of Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland (fig. 8). As Sir John was keenly aware, Lady Anne’s marriage to the Duke of Cumberland in 1772 had caused a tremendous scandal and embarrassment to the King. By exhibiting the portrait at the Royal Academy in 1773, Reynolds was no doubt keen to exploit the notoriety of his celebrity sitter. For Sir John, his purchase some twenty years or so later was very personal, as he and his wife had been close friends of the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland during the 1770s.36 In the early 1790s, by which time the Duchess was widowed, Sir John wrote sympathetically of her financial plight.37 Her portrait by Reynolds was a memento of her allure in earlier years, when Horace Walpole had characterised her as ‘Coquette beyond measure, artful as Cleopatra, and completely mistress of all her passions and projects’. Now, her youthful image was to keep Sir John company in old age.38

Full length portrait of Sir John Hussey Delaval in Van Dyck Dress Seaton Delaval

Figure 7.
William Bell, Full length portrait of Sir John Hussey Delaval in Van Dyck Dress Seaton Delaval, 1774. Oil on canvas, 231.1 × 142.2 cm. National Trust, Seaton Delaval Hall (1276762).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust Images. (All rights reserved)

Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland

Figure 8.
Joshua Reynolds, Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland, 1772-73. Oil on canvas, 249 × 162 cm. Waddesdon (National Trust), Bequest of James de Rothschild (2303).

Digital image courtesy of Waddesdon Image Library. (All rights reserved)

One final question remains: was the group of Grand Manner portraits that form the core of the discussion here ever displayed together in the Long Gallery Doddington as circumstance appears to suggest? Their swagger and style, together with their opulent matching frames, indicate that they may well have been intended to hang together, and that Sir John Hussey Delaval may have financed their commissioning and purchase. Whether their close association was ever articulated by uniting them in one physical space and in a coordinated display area is another matter. However, even if there never was a ‘golden age’ or even a gilded moment of display at Doddington Hall, a study of these portraits reveals that a collection of this kind cannot be interpreted as a group simply by virtue of being housed together. As for displays, they are seldom static: objects are created, installed, moved and transferred, whether through calculation or caprice. Inevitably, the closer an investigation of the collection becomes, the more complex the situation appears. For the Delavals themselves, inhabiting houses in town and country across different parts of the British Isles, the portraits they commissioned and in which they featured reflect personal passions, adventures, aspirations and even underlying tensions. Like the collection at Doddington that mirrors and records their lives, one must conclude that what brought the Delaval family together also pulled them apart.


  • Dr Martin Postle is Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre. Between 1998 and 2007 he was Head of British Art to 1900 at Tate. Martin's research and publication interests focus principally on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, including portraiture, landscape and the history of art academies. He has curated exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, including the artist’s model, the Fancy Picture and the art of the garden, as well as monographic exhibitions on Joshua Reynolds, Johan Zoffany, Richard Wilson, Stanley Spencer and George Stubbs. Martin is project leader and commissioning editor of ‘Art & the Country House’, to which he has contributed a number of essays and catalogue entries.


  1. See copy of the will of Rhoda Blake Delaval, widow of Francis B. Delaval, 30 June 1759, Northumberland Archives, 2/DE/52/36. John Delaval incorporated ‘Hussey’ into his name on inheriting Doddington Hall from his mother, who was herself descended from the Hussey family.

  2. See Frank Askham, The Gay Delavals, London: Jonathan Cape, 1955, p. 54.

  3. On 24 May 1760 reference is made in the building accounts to the blocking of the windows on the east front of the Long Gallery: ‘To making straight the East Wall with studs of deal’, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Top. Lincs. c. 14, 48–50.

  4. Inventory of Doddington Hall, 1760, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Top. Lincs. c. 13.

  5. The portrait at Seaton Delaval (NT 1276808) has formerly been attributed tentatively to Francis Cotes, while the sitter has been identified as Sir Edward Astley’s second wife Anne Milles (also ‘Mrs Edward Astley’). The portrait by Reynolds passed to the present owner via Lady Susanna Carpenter, granddaughter of Sir John Hussey Delaval, whose daughter married the second Marquess of Waterford. Now at Curraghmore House, Ireland, it was located in the later nineteenth century at Ford Castle, Northumberland: see R. E. G. Cole, History of Doddington, otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the County of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees, James Williamson: Lincoln, 1897, p. 133.

  6. See David Mannings and Martin Postle, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols., New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, vol. 1, p. 164, no. 500, and vol. 2, fig. 266.

  7. The Gentleman’s Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, September 1757, vol. 16, p. 460.

  8. Royal Academy of Arts Archive, Sir Joshua Reynolds, PRA, papers 1757–90, REY/1/2 Pocket book 1758: 11, 15, 20, 23 February; 3 March; 13, 21, 27, 29 April; 1, 5, 9, 10, 12, 15, 22 May. See also Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 431, no. 1690.

  9. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 431, no. 1690.

  10. See Askham, 1955, pp. 91–3; W. Y. Carman, ‘Francis Blake Delaval’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 30, no. 123, Autumn 1952, pp. 113–14.

  11. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 164, no. 501. The receipt, which is untraced, states ‘Received from John Hussey Delaval Esq the sum of sixty pounds for Sir Francis Delaval’s Picture whole length by me, J Reynolds’.

  12. See Mannings and Postle, 2000, p. 164, nos 501, 502 and 502a–e. In addition, there is a kit-cat sized version of the portrait at Seaton Delaval (NT 1276714), and a small oval on copper, sold Bonhams, Oxford, 5 September, 2012 (203).

  13. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 405, no. 1577a. The copy may have been made to hang in the Mexboroughs’ seat at Methley Hall, Yorkshire, possibly when the figure of the child was added to the original composition around 1764

  14. Geoffrey Beard, ‘Babel’s “A New Book of Ornaments”, 1752’, Furniture History, vol. 11, 1975, pp. 31–2; John Cornforth, ‘Putting up with Georgian DIY’, Country Life, vol. 186, 9 April 1992, pp. 54–6.

  15. Personal communication with the author by email, 6 February 2017. See also (accessed 6 March 2017).

  16. Richard Green, ‘“The Hon. Lady Stanhope and the Countess of Effingham as Diana and her Companion” by Francis Cotes’, NACF Review, 1988, pp. 106–9.

  17. For Francis Delaval’s relations with Samuel Foote see Ian Kelly, Mr Foote’s Other Leg, Picador: London, 2012, pp. 195–219.

  18. Andrew Graciano, ‘The Memoir of Benjamin Wilson, FRS (1721–88): Painter and Electrical Scientist’, The Walpole Society, 2012, vol. 74, p. 191.

  19. Graciano, 2012, p. 197. For Wilson’s detailed account of his role in the theatre see Graciano, 2012, pp. 197–9.

  20. The portrait of John Delaval is shown hanging to the left of the fireplace in the Drawing Room in a photograph taken in the late nineteenth century. The pendant portrait of Susannah Delaval is described as hanging to the right. See Cole, 1897, p. 222 and facing.

  21. ‘1 Large picture full length of LORD DELAVAL and LADY STANHOPE in Character of with carved and Gilt frame’, Inventory of the Household Furniture Belonging to the Right Honorable Lord Delaval at Doddington near Lincoln Lincolnshire 28 February – 7 March 1786 by J. Brown, William Portis and Sarah Holmes, MS Top. Lincs. e. 6, 3-.

  22. See, for example, Richard Lovell Edgeworth and Maria Edgeworth, Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth Esq., 3rd edn, London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1844, pp. 76–7. Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill, Music and Theatre in Handel’s World: The Family Papers of James Harris 1732–1780, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 483. Also Kelly, 2012, p. 208.

  23. A head-and-shoulders portrait of Anne, in which she is portrayed in a similar fashion, is at Seaton Delaval (NT 1276891). The portrait, in which she holds a book with ‘Dante’ inscribed on the spine, is attributed to Rhoda Delaval, although it would appear to date from the 1760s, after Rhoda’s death, and may also be attributed to Benjamin Wilson.

  24. NT 1276891.

  25. In the Doddington Hall catalogue I affirm the identification of the sitter as Anne Delaval, and dated the picture to the mid-1760s, although at a study day held at Doddington on 12 October 2016 several participants felt that the picture, on stylistic grounds, appeared to date from the early eighteenth century.

  26. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 430, no. 1689.

  27. Lewis Namier and John Brooke, The History of Parliament. The House of Commons 1754–1790, vol. 3, Members K-Y, London: Secker & Warburg, 1985, 467.

  28. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 430, no. 1689.

  29. See Richard Green, ‘“The Hon. Lady Stanhope and the Countess of Effingham as Diana and her Companion” by Francis Cotes’, NACF Review, 1988, 107. Less convincing in my opinion is the argument that the portrait can be viewed in relation to an earlier martial portrait of Francis Delaval, as well as issues connected to threatened masculinity, nationhood and empire. See Jordan Vibert, ‘Framing Sir Francis: Lady Anne Stanhope and the Corruption of Civic Masculinity’, in Gill Perry, Kate Retford and Jordan Vibert, eds, Placing Faces: The Portrait and the English Country House in the Long Eighteenth Century, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013, pp. 21943.

  30. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 405, no. 1577. As Mannings notes, Reynolds’s pocket book for 1763 is missing, although a single appointment appears on 14 February 1764, possibly marking the portrait’s completion.

  31. ‘1 Large picture full length of L. and Lady Mexborough and a Child with carved and Gilt frame’, Inventory of the Household Furniture Belonging to the Right Honorable Lord Delaval at Doddington near Lincoln Lincolnshire 28 February – 7 March 1786 by J. Brown, William Portes and Sarah Holmes. MS Top. Lincs. e. 6, 3-.

  32. I am grateful to Brian Allen who has made the attribution to Benjamin Wilson, via verbal communication with the author.

  33. Cole, 1897, pp. 154–5; Askham, 1955, p. 168.

  34. Askham, 1955, p. 185.

  35. Askham, 1955, p. 225.

  36. Askham, 1955, p. 153.

  37. Askham, 1955, p. 204.

  38. W. S. Lewis, ed., The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, 48 vols, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937–83, vol. 23, p. 345. The portrait was inherited from Sir John by his second wife Lady Susannah Knight Delaval, and descended through the family to Louisa Stuart, Marchioness of Waterford. It was acquired subsequently by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, and now forms part of the Rothschild Collection (National Trust) at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.



by Martin Postle
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Martin Postle, "Doddington and the Delavals: collecting and display in the 1760s", Art and the Country House,