In July 1946, the saxophonist sage and behemoth of be-bop, Charlie Parker, stumbled into a stuffy recording studio in Los Angeles late at night. He had recently substituted his usual diet of heroin for liquor and could barely stand straight. Relying on recording commissions to fund his wild and unpredictable lifestyle, the boy-wonder of post-war jazz was obliged to play his rendition of the hit song, “Lover Man”, to earn ends meet. The session was inevitably a chaotic experience, with Parker finding it impossible to stay still or to heed the frantic instructions of his producers, but his inebriated performance that evening inspired hundreds of imitations and impressed many of the venerated high priests of his genre.
Holbein’s tiny portrait projects us into a private moment in the life of an ordinary middle-class woman living in the reign of Henry VIII.