JOHAN ZOFFANY, R.A.
Study for the Altarpiece at Brentford Chapel
The artist by whom given to Major General Claude Martin (1735-1800), Lucknow, India, circa 1799
His sale, Tulloh & Co, Calcutta, 18 December, 1800
Purchased by Benjamin Wolff (1760 - 1866) presumably whilst in Calcutta,1817-1829,
Engelholm Manor, Copenhagen and by descent
It is thought that George III himself suggested that Zoffany paint an altarpiece of the Last Supper for the King's parish church at St Anne's, Kew. Zoffany's painting of The Last Supper which was painted for St John's Church in Calcutta (1787), had been received with great acclaim. It is not known entirely why St Anne's, Kew rejected the finished painting but the most often repeated story claims that it was his choice of sitters. Appropriately enough, the majority of the disciples were said to have been modelled on fishermen from the local area, the Strand. Zoffany supposedly cast himself as St Peter and his own common-law wife, Mary Thomas, as St John. The face of Judas Iscariot was by repute a distinguished member of St Anne's Vestry, a lawyer with whom he had quarrelled over making his will.
Another version of events suggests that Zoffany had in fact based all the figures, except for Christ, on likenesses of himself. Both these and other versions cannot be verified. After St Anne's refused to pay, Zoffany gave the painting to St George's, Brentford, just across the river. In 1959 when St George's closed, the painting was transferred to St Paul's, Brentford. It can now be seen on the north wall of the chancel.
Zoffany's altarpiece was originally a triptych, with angels on its wings and a painting of an angel astride a cross surrounded by cherubim which was to hang above the Last Supper scene. In this drawing both central images are combined into one design. In the finished painting, Zoffany has amongst other alterations, lowered the perspective and included in the foreground two Veronesesque serving boys.