22 SEPTEMBER 2007, Page 19

Model Apostle

Sir: Philip Hensher is quite right to correct Peter Ackroyd's bizarre suggestion that the apostles in Zoffany's 'Last Supper' were modelled on Thames fishermen (Books, 8 September). Far from being Ackroyd's beloved cockneys, the models were in fact all prominent members of 18th-century Anglo-Indian Calcutta society, suitably enough for a picture which was designed for the altarpiece of St John's, Calcutta's first Anglican church. Jesus himself was modelled by the 'worthy Greek priest, Father Parthenio', while according to Mildred Archer, the authority on British portraiture in India, the auctioneer William Tulloh 'was far from pleased to find himself as Judas'. St John, `the Apostle Jesus loved' was meanwhile modelled on WC. Blaquiere, the blond and startlingly effeminate police magistrate throughout the 1780s, a noted cross-dresser who used to leap at any opportunity to adopt female disguises. So comely was Blaquiere's appearance that Zoffany posed him with his long blond tresses tumbling over Jesus's breast.

William Dalrymple Mehrauli, New Delhi