Amaryllis Fleming was the daughter of the widowed Eve Fleming and Augustus John, but until the age of 24 she had believed that she was an orphan, adopted by her mother. Her brothers, Ian and Peter Fleming, were never referred to her as such and she detested her mother. Amaryllis filled the emotional void in her life by playing the cello and in 1943 she won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, eventually studying under Guilhermina Suggia, Pablo Casals and Pierre Fournier. Following her Prom debut in 1953 she became the most celebrated female soloist of the decade, and in 1964 became the first person in more than a hundred years to play Bach's Sixth Suite on the five-string cello for which it had been composed. She later became a teacher and Professor and then Fellow of the Royal College of Music. She died in July 1999, leaving most of her possessions to charity (see F. Fleming, catalogue for the exhibition at the Fine Art Society, 2000, pp. 2-6).
In 1949 Amaryllis had discovered the secret of her paternity and this portrait dates from that year.