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"Hogwarts portraits are able to talk and move around from picture to picture. They behave like their subjects. However, the degree to which they can interact with the people looking at them depends not on the skill of the painter, but on the power of the witch or wizard painted."
— Description[src]

Portraits were paintings made of certain individuals, namely witches and wizards.[2] The subject of a magical portrait was sentient due to enchantments placed on the portrait by the painter. The portrait would be able to use some of the subject's favourite phrases and imitate their general demeanour based on how the subject appeared to the painter; however, they were limited in what they could say or do.[3] A portrait could also move from portrait to portrait, or else visit a portrait of them elsewhere in the world.[4]

Bimp, Oliver Cartwright, John Homme, Luxo Karuzos, Pablo Picasso and Leonardo Da Vinci were all expert painters. Magenta Comstock was an experimental painter whose subjects' eyes followed their viewers home.[5]

Depiction

A witch or wizard could go to a wizarding painter to have themselves painted. This was usually done so that the portraitist could enchant the portrait to have some characteristics of the subject. The portrait would be able to use some of the subject's favourite phrases and imitate their general demeanour. When a magical portrait was taken, the witch or wizard artist would naturally use enchantments to ensure that the painting would be able to move in the usual way.[3]

Portrait person

Sir Cadogan's portrait was forever challenging people to a fight, falling off its horse and behaving in a fairly unbalanced way, which was how the subject appeared to the poor wizard who had to paint him, while the portrait of the Fat Lady continued to indulge her love of good food, drink, and tip-top security long after her living model passed away.[3]

The individuals depicted in the paintings fleeing in preparation for the Battle of Hogwarts

A portrait knew little if anything of its subject's life, and therefore could not hold a very interesting conversation about its subject, as they were only representations of the living subjects as seen by the artist.[3] The exception to this was of the portraits of Hogwarts Headmasters, which were kept in a cupboard from the time of their painting, which was usually very old,[2] until the subject died.[3] The Headmaster could therefore teach their portrait to act and speak like them so that they could teach their successors.[3] Despite this, the people in the portraits were considered a sort of memoir or support mechanism. Prior to taking up the post of Headmistress of Hogwarts on a permanent basis, Minerva McGonagall was advised to not mistake those in the paintings for actual people.[6] The depth of knowledge and insight contained in some of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' portraits was unknown to any but the incumbents of the office and the few students who had realised, over the centuries, that the portraits' apparent sleepiness when visitors arrived in the office was not necessarily genuine.[3]

The person depicted in a portrait could therefore live indefinitely,[7] although a portrait did have reason to fear for their life or well-being.[8][9]

Magical photographs

A witch or wizard might also produce a magical photograph that had been put through a special potion. While some of these might simply be animated images occurring in a continuous loop, some reacted to their surroundings. Gilderoy Lockhart had "countless framed photographs" of himself in his office. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione were taken to his office to be interviewed by Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape in the Chamber of Secrets, pictures of Lockhart (with his hair now in rollers) dodged out of sight. A few moments later, the photographs were nodding in agreement as Lockhart spoke.[10]

Known portraits

Portrait Known locations Notes
Albus Dumbledore Headmaster's office During Severus Snape's time as Headmaster the painting hid the Sword of Gryffindor, to keep it safe from Lord Voldemort.[11] He later provided advice to Harry Potter.[12][13]
British Ministry of Magic Headquarters[14]
Ambrose Swott Headmaster's office
Anne Boleyn

Grand Staircase near the 2nd floor landing

Ariana Dumbledore Aberforth's room at the Hog's Head Inn In the 1997–1998 school year, her portrait concealed a secret passage to the Room of Requirement.[15][16]
Armando Dippet Headmaster's office
Barnabas the Barmy 7th floor, Hogwarts Castle
Professor Basil Fronsac Headmaster's office Secret passages:

1995–1996 school year

1996–1997 school year

Grand Staircase
Library
Dungeons
Bloody Baron Near the Potions Classroom Slytherin House Ghost
Brian Gagwilde III Entrance Hall
Grand Staircase
Brutus Scrimgeour Hogwarts Trophy Room Concealed a secret passage between the Trophy Room and the 4th floor.
Circe Grand Staircase Concealed a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room.[17]
Entrance Hall side room
Damara Dodderidge Grand Staircase 1995 to 1997. Her portrait concealed a secret passage from the Grand Staircase to the Clock Tower.[18]
Clock Tower
Gryffindor Tower
Daryle Unknown
Dexter Fortescue Headmaster's office
Dilys Derwent Headmaster's office
St Mungo's main admitting area[19]
Edgar Stroulger Sixth floor of Hogwarts Castle Guards a secret passage in 1993
Elfrida Cragg British Ministry of Magic Headquarters
Elizabeth Burke 1991 to 1995

1995 to 1996

1995 to 1996 her portrait concealed two secret passageways:

1997

Emeric Switch Hogwarts Castle
Edessa Sakndenberg Headmaster's office
East Wing
Grand Staircase
Other Halls
Everard Headmaster's office
British Ministry of Magic Headquarters
Fat Friar One of the Hogwarts Castle's corridors Hufflepuff House Ghost
Fat Lady Guards the Gryffindor Tower
George von Rheticus 1995–1996 school year

1996–1997 school year

Secret passages:

1995–1996 school year

1996–1997 school year

Giffard Abbott Grand Staircase, below the first landing 1995 to 1997 guarded two short-cuts:
Transfiguration Courtyard
Clock Tower
Corridor outside the library
Gilderoy Lockhart DADA office and classroom.[21] Only during the 1992–1993 school year.
Glanmore Peakes 6th floor Glanmore Peakes' Corridor Concealed a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room.[17]
6th floor landing of the Grand Staircase
Entrance Hall side room
Godric Gryffindor 7th floor landing of the Grand Staircase Guarded a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room. One of the founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.[17]
Entrance Hall side room
Google Stump Viaduct Entrance Concealed a secret passage to the 1st floor corridor.
Greta Catchlove Grand Staircase Concealed a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room.
Entrance Hall side room
Günther der Gewalttätige ist der Gewinner Unknown Depicts Gunther the Violent
Harry Potter Sketch Probably now in the rubbish bin Drawn by Draco Malfoy and given to Harry to unnerve him about the upcoming Quidditch match.[22]
Helena Ravenclaw Near the Library Her portrait was non-speaking
Heliotrope Wilkins Headmaster's office
Grand Staircase
Hengist Rawkes Near the 1st floor landing of the Grand Staircase
Iris Pivis Hogwarts Castle
Merlin Grand Staircase
Merwyn the Malicious 3rd floor landing of the Grand Staircase Concealed a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room.[17]
Entrance Hall side room
Mirabella Plunkett 1st floor landing of the Grand Staircase Concealed a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room.[17]
Entrance Hall side room
Newton Scamander Headmaster's office
Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington Hogwarts Castle
Norvel Twonk 5th floor landing of the Grand Staircase Concealed a secret passage between the Grand Staircase and the Entrance Hall side room.[17]
Entrance Hall side room
Oraclitus Spheer Gryffindor Reading Room
Percival Pratt Grand Staircase 1995–1996 school year
Boathouse
Phineas Nigellus Black Headmaster's office[19]
12 Grimmauld Place
People watching Quidditch Oxford Corridor, Hogwarts Castle
Professor Walter Aragon Grand Staircase
Headmaster's office
Quentin Trimble Headmaster's office
Rowena Ravenclaw Hogwarts Castle Rowan Khanna took the portrait to History of Magic classes on several occasions between 1988 and 1990.[23] One of the founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Salazar Slytherin Dungeons antechamber Concealed a secret passage between the Dungeons antechamber and the Entrance Hall side room.[17] One of the founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Entrance Hall side room
Sedley Smirkpaltter Hogwarts Castle
Severus Snape Headmaster's office
Sir Cadogan 7th floor, Hogwarts Castle In 1993, he was temporarily the guard to the Gryffindor Tower while the Fat Lady's portrait was being repaired.[9]
Timothy the Timid 1995–1996 school year

1996–1997 school year

Secret passages:

1995–1996 school year

1996–1997 school year

  • Between the Grand Staircase and the Quidditch Gate
  • Between the Quidditch Gate and the Portrait Room
Tobias Manlethorpe Hogwarts Castle
Temeritus Shanks 1992–1993 school year

1995–1996 school year

Secret passages:

1995–1996 school year

1996–1997 school year

Unidentified red-haired witch Grand Staircase
Valeria Myriadd 1991–1992 school year

1992–1993 school year

Secret passage between the Gryffindor Tower to a Disused seventh floor bathroom
Vindictus Viridian Grand Staircase Concealed the entrance to the Room of Rewards.[20]
Violet A small chamber off of the Great Hall Is friends with the Fat Lady.[24]
Vulpus Headmaster's office
Walburga Black 12 Grimmauld Place Magically fixed to the wall with a Permanent Sticking Charm.[25]
Woman in the hospital wing Hospital Wing, Hogwarts Castle

Behind the scenes

  • In the LEGO Harry Potter games, portraits are shown to be far more interactive than in any other media, with objects able to move from the portrait out to the real world and vice versa. Many puzzles in both games revolve around getting a portrait to give you a necessary object, or bringing a real world object into the portrait to assist its occupants.
  • J. K. Rowling once claimed in an interview that all of the portraits seen at Hogwarts depict deceased individuals.[26] This is not strictly true, however; Gilderoy Lockhart owned several portraits of himself which he hung in his classroom and office.
  • In a scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a portrait features someone that resembles Lord Voldemort. This may be a coincidence, or the director's idea.
    • In the same film, Draco Malfoy enchants his sketch of a stupid-looking Harry Potter flying on a broomstick, crashing into things, to make Harry uneasy about the Quidditch Tournament.

Appearances

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Notes and references

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Harry Potter Limited Edition
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Hogwarts Portraits" at Wizarding World
  4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)
  5. J. K. Rowling's official site
  6. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act Two, Scene Ten
  7. As Phineas Nigellus lived for at least seventy-three years after his portrait was painted, seemingly without ageing or dying.
  8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 8 (Flight of the Fat Lady)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9 (Grim Defeat)
  10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 7 (Mudbloods And Murmurs)
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  12. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 29 (The Phoenix Lament)
  13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  14. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 28 (The Missing Mirror)
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 29 (The Lost Diadem)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (PC version)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
  19. 19.0 19.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 22 (St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries)
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
  21. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
  22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) - Chapter 14 (Substitute Teacher)
  23. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery - History of Magic classes
  24. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 17 (The Four Champions)
  25. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 6 (The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black)
  26. Edinburgh Book Festival, Sunday 15th August 2004
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