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The Life of Portraits

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The Life of Portraits Empty The Life of Portraits

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:47 am

This topic serves as an archive of a thread from the Harry Potter Lexicon Forum as hosted on World Crossing, which ceased operation on April 15, 2011. It was copied/saved by Lady Arabella and reformatted/reposted by Potteraholic. ~Potteraholic

Oliver Wood - Dec 9, 2005 1:16 pm
Edited by Kip Carter Aug 4, 2007 2:56 am

We know that in the wizarding world that pictures move, and portraits talk to their observers. And ever sense I've read the books, the thought has never occurred to me how, or why. But with the recent death of Dumbledore, and his appearance on the wall of past Headmasters and Mistresses, I've begun to wonder, how much of a life do portraits really have? I mean the fat lady is able to retain memory, change passwords, and stand up to Sirius Black, the portrait of Black's mother is able to recognize half bloods and Muggle-borns from purebloods, and the other portraits in DD office, often chime in with their two bits while listening to Harry and DD's conversations. So, how big of a role could the portrait of Dumbledore play in the next book. I'm not sure, what are the restrictions on portraits, can they think and act as their human counterpart? Any thoughts??
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The Life of Portraits Empty The Life of Portraits (posts #1 to #50)

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:49 am

Solitaire - Dec 10, 2005 10:54 pm (#1 of 222)

Remember that when Arthur Weasley was attacked in the Ministry, Dumbledore sent Everard to his portrait in the Ministry to get help and Dilys Derwent to hers in St. Mungo's to check on Arthur when he arrived.

The subjects of portraits certainly seem to be able to observe current goings-on and interact with the Witches and Wizards in today's world. Didn't several of them comment to Phineas Nigellus, when he tried to weasel out of helping, that former Heads were honor-bound to come to the assistance of the current Head when he sought guidance? I guess we need to know the limits of any guidance and assistance. They would seem to be confined to their portraits, which naturally will put some limits on what they can do.


Soul Search - Dec 11, 2005 6:58 am (#2 of 222)

I have thought that the Hogwarts portraits formed a "spy" network to inform staff of what's going on.

It explains how, in PoA, McGonagall new the party had gotten out of hand and, later, about Ron's excitement with Sirius "attacking him."

TomProffitt - Dec 11, 2005 7:18 am (#3 of 222)

Judging by the way Jo's characters treat the portraits I've come to regard them as being like computer programs.

Well, they look and act an awful lot like the people they represent, but they are just pictures (or computer simulations). The soul of who they are is missing. They are not capable of growth or development, they remain what they were at the moment they were committed to canvass (or bytes).

You can view the portrait and reminisce about the one you lost, but it isn't a whole lot more than a photo album or video recording.

zelmia - Dec 11, 2005 10:56 am (#4 of 222)

I think that's a very good analogy, Tom. Although portraits do seem slightly more sophisticated than that in the sense that one can interact with them in real time, as Solitaire points out.

One thing that I found surprising was that Dumbledore's portrait simply appeared in his old office. While this answers some of the questions we had had about how these Headmasters' portraits came to be - as always - Jo's revelation only leads to more questions.

The Fat Lady, for example. Was she important or celebrated enough in life to have her portrait simply materialize upon her death? And if so, why at Hogwarts?

Dumbledore mentions in PA having trouble finding a portrait "willing to take the job" of guarding Gryffindor tower. Could this mean that portraits can choose where they are to be hung? If so, what happens when they are moved against their will? Do the portraits simply scream for help, for example?

The portrait of Sirius's mum had had "a permanent sticking charm" placed on it. Could it be that, though she is only a figure in a painting, La Mere Black herself was responsible for this?

Speaking of Sirius's mum, did her portrait appear on the wall at the moment of her death? Or had it been commissioned?

For that matter, are these portraits even commissioned? Surely there must be a "portrait conjuring" spell of some kind.

ex-FAHgeek - Dec 11, 2005 11:44 am (#5 of 222)

---quote--- Surely there must be a "portrait conjuring" spell of some kind. ---end quote---

My guess would be that it's more like a ritual - the paints probably involve some specific potion making methods, and a whole series of spells must be cast throughout the process, with some sort of final "binding" to link it all together and, in the case of a portrait of a real person, infuse the painting with the subject's personality and knowledge.

I wonder how portraits of fictional characters (for example, I presume that the Fat Lady never had a living identity) get their personalities - does the artist choose, or do they develop on their own (in a context that makes sense for their backdrop)?

Choices - Dec 11, 2005 5:50 pm (#6 of 222)

I always imagined the Mrs. Black had the portrait of herself painted and hung it there in the entry hall so after her demise, she could monitor the comings and goings in her house. I think she placed the permanent sticking charm on it herself to insure it wasn't moved. She probably knew if she didn't, Sirius would dispose of it.

vickilh42 - Dec 11, 2005 6:29 pm (#7 of 222)

While the following is just "wild speculation", I like to wonder if there is something hidden behind either Mother Black's portrait or even the Black Family Tree! There are just so many references to hidden doorway/staircases behind tapestries, or bookcases(in HBP) etc... and also there is the hidden room at Malfoy's. Perhaps the Black's had their own secret chamber--be it for treasures or hidden Dark Art artifacts/books(all the better if it were the latter-- to help Harry!). Or might someone be hidden there...RAB alive or his tomb? Could Kreacher be involved--his own "elf" brand of magic?

It's so fun to take an idea and run with it! Smile

Solitaire - Dec 12, 2005 12:04 am (#8 of 222)

I seem to remember the Fat Lady having been gone from her portrait on at least one other occasion in the novels (besides the time when Sirius Black slashed her painting). Didn't Harry or one of the other kids (sorry ... can't remember who it was or which book) get stuck waiting outside the entrance to the Gryffindor common room because the Fat Lady was visiting someone else in a different portrait?


The giant squid - Dec 12, 2005 1:06 am (#9 of 222)

I don't remember the exact quote, but there is a point where the Fat Lady was off "carousing" with her friend Violet. When she reappeared the next day the password was changed to "abstinence".

Phelim Mcintyre - Dec 12, 2005 1:48 am (#10 of 222)

Also in Philosopher's Stone/Sorcerer's Stone Hermione has to accompany harry and Ron because the Fat Lady has wandered off somewhere. As to where Violet and the Fat Lady had gone to, wasn't it drinking all the alcohol in a portrait with monks?

Solitaire - Dec 12, 2005 12:30 pm (#11 of 222)

Originally, based on Dilys, Phineas, and Everard, I thought that the subjects could only move among their own portraits. Given the activity of the Fat Lady, however, it seems they have rather a lot of freedom within their limits. Or are we to conclude that she was a subject in all of those other paintings, as well?


TomProffitt - Dec 12, 2005 12:37 pm (#12 of 222)

"Or are we to conclude that she was a subject in all of those other paintings, as well?" --- Solitaire

It is my perception that the subject of a painting can move among any paintings hanging in the same building. Therefore, Phineas can appear in any painting in 12 Grimmauld Place until his painting is removed.

Detail Seeker - Dec 12, 2005 12:48 pm (#13 of 222)

We have seen portrait subjects moving freely within Hogwarts. So they can visit neighbouring pictures. The former headmasters can visit their portraits wherever they are.

So, I interpret this as being two different mechanisms of moving. One mechanism allows going to any picture in a short range vicinity (the scale of short range as yet undefined), thereby able to cover any distance within a suite of closely packed pictures, while the other mechanism only allows appearing on different sites of the portraited persons identity. So, one might conclude, multiple portraits of one person just have one unsplit identity. By unsplit, I mean, that they are present only on one portrait at one given moment of time (as seen by the example of Phineas Nigellus in OoP, who was either at Hogwarts or at Grimmauld Place). The contrast to this is the existence of horcruxes, where diluted parts of the essence of a person exist parallel to each other.

This concept may lead of whole bunch of questions:

Can you trap the essence of the portraited person in one specific portrait ?

What happens to the other portrait, if you destroy the aforementioned portrait with the essence of the portraited trapped?

What is the worth of a portrait of former headmaster away from Hogwarts to the owner, when it seems, that they (have to ?)stay in the headmaster’s office most of the time ?


Oh, I cross posted with Tom Proffit

Mrs. Sirius - Dec 12, 2005 8:23 pm (#14 of 222)

Tom I vaguely remember that in OoTP one of the former headmasters of Hogwarts was asked to go to the Ministry to check on Arthur Weasley after he was injured. If I remember correctly, she was able to travel from her portrait at Hogwarts to her portrait at the Ministry and then travel within other portraits there until the point where there were no more portraits.

ex-FAHgeek - Dec 13, 2005 8:16 am (#15 of 222)
Edited by Dec 13, 2005 8:19 am

---quote--- If I remember correctly, she was able to travel from her portrait at Hogwarts to her portrait at the Ministry and then travel within other portraits there until the point where there were no more portraits. ---end quote---

Correct - and it also raised suspicions because the sentries couldn't explain how Everard would know about an event that was "in progress" on a floor without portraits.

As a note about movement within Hogwarts, it seems as though portraits always move into the neighboring painting. It would be interesting to know whether this movement is only horizontal (and thus, they would have to follow a string of portraits up the stairs) or if it can be vertical (for example, by "climbing" a tree in one painting up through a trap door in a painting on the floor above.)

Choices - Dec 13, 2005 11:15 am (#16 of 222)

That explains the huge number of art works in Hogwarts. They are not only decorative, they are a security/spy network.

Solitaire - Dec 13, 2005 2:28 pm (#17 of 222)

An interesting idea, Choices ... it makes sense.

Madame Pomfrey - Dec 14, 2005 4:36 am (#18 of 222)

I like that too! Wasn't it in OoP that Harry was listening outside Dumbledore's door and heard Dumbledore conversing with a group of people only later finding out it was the portraits with whom he was conversing? It seems they are also able to give advice. If Dumbledore has secrets, I wonder if the portraits are also loyal enough to keep them? I mean, now that McGonagall is Head Mistress will they tell her what Dumbledore and Harry have been up to if she asks?

Phelim Mcintyre - Dec 14, 2005 5:55 am (#19 of 222)

It is possible that the portraits do not have the authority to pass on secrets. While the portraits are duty bound to help the current headteacher what Harry and Dumbledore were doing had to do with the wizarding war and not Hogwarts specifically. Harry was central to this because of the prophecy. As such these extra-curriculum lessons are probably beyond the portraits authority to talk about.

zelmia - Dec 14, 2005 10:09 am (#20 of 222)

Besides: What could they really tell her? "The old Headmaster and young Potter would disappear into that Pensieve there for a bit. Then when they got back, Dumbledore would swear Potter to secrecy before sending him off to bed."

I could see where people might think that the Dumbledore portrait might be able to reveal what he and Harry had been doing - especially with regard to his own passing. But I think I am now beginning to understand what Rowling meant when she said that the portraits essentially just "repeat catch phrases".

As in real life, the portraits are only representations of their subjects. As such they are limited in how they respond to events or conversation - that limitation being how the original subject would have responded in the present. For portraits (and presumably photographs as well, if I follow my own line of thinking), there simply isn't any "past". There is only the here and now.

In other words, while many interactions with the portraits are very much like speaking to a living person, when it comes to knowledge of things or events prior to the portrait's creation, the portrait will not have any knowledge - or, if you prefer, recollection - of it.

Now having said that, it's clear that portraits do have some sort of memory capability. Phineas Nigellus, for example, refers to Sirius as his great- great- etc grandson and "the last of the Blacks". Clearly he has more than a little knowledge of his family history, which would require him to remember that all the other family have since died out.

Then there are the passwords, which the portraits guarding Gryffindor Tower need to remember. While this is similar to the computer program analogy that Tom gave us, we have seen that the passwords are directly influenced by the portraits' own experiences - as when The Fat Lady changed the password to "abstinence" while suffering from "cocktail flu". Or when Sir Cadogan "remembered" the way to Prof. Trelawney's tower. He knew this, even though his portrait may have been moved several times.

But these "memories" apparently only concern events that have occurred since the portraits' creation. And we have not ever seen any portrait refer to or describe any event that he or she did not personally witness. Hearsay information has only come from other living characters, such as Hagrid, Mme Rosemerta, Sirius, etc.

Hmm. This is all very confusing....

Oliver Wood - Dec 18, 2005 4:26 pm (#21 of 222)

Many things have been speculated about a portrait being able to transfer to a different building, (i.e. P.N. going to number 12 Grimmauld Place) and there's evidence that they can travel amongst other portraits in the building, (like the headmaster that went to the ministry to find Arthur), then why did P.N. just stay in the bedroom and scream until Kreacher came in?

Gina R Snape - Dec 19, 2005 8:40 am (#22 of 222)

I suspect Mrs. Black requested a permanent sticking charm for her portrait before her death.

As for memories, I imagine portraits come into being retaining a good deal of information about their lives. But they cannot grow. They can remember events, but their personalities are 'fixed' and as such they will behave as their personalities dictated at the point of creation.

I don't think portraits need to climb trees or go through trap doors. I think they can just move to the next adjacent portrait. I wonder, though, if a portrait has the power to block another from going through it. What if your frame is sitting in a 'high traffic' area? That would be just miserable if you liked your peace and quiet.

I also wonder about destroying portraits. Ok, so Mrs. Black's portrait has a permanent sticking charm. But what if someone came along with some paint thinner and sprayed it on her?

Ooooh, and what if someone was painted in a non-traditional way? Would a Picasso-like abstract portrait act the same way as a pop art or pointillist or Pre-Raphaelite or Italian Renaissance style portrait, and so on...

Snuffles - Dec 19, 2005 8:47 am (#23 of 222)

With regards to the delightful portrait of Mrs. Black, I always wonder why ,when the curtains in front of her portrait are shut, someone doesn't just put a permanent sticking charm on them, to stop her flinging them open when she hears a noise!!

Steve Newton - Dec 19, 2005 10:28 am (#24 of 222)

Gina, your Picasso suggestion would seem to apply to the picture of Harry that Dobby gave him.

Choices - Dec 19, 2005 11:09 am (#25 of 222)

Yes, the one where Harry looked like a monkey. The statue of Slytherin in the COS looked "monkeyish" - I wonder if Dobby could see the influence of Slytherin (through Voldemort) in Harry and thus painted him that way?

Steve Newton - Dec 19, 2005 11:14 am (#26 of 222)

I had forgotten that it was monkeyish. Slytherin's statues in the COS were monkeyish and the Gaunts are described as apish.

Gina R Snape - Dec 19, 2005 5:33 pm (#27 of 222)

Interesting. Do you think it's a bad sign that Harry has a bad portrait of himself?

zelmia - Dec 19, 2005 6:03 pm (#28 of 222)

I guess I was thinking that, by Dumbledore's portrait appearing on the wall of his office, Rowling is trying to tell us that this is how portraits of real people come into being. They are not painted, even magically. They just... are.

Of course, how this relates to a simple painting of a human figure or figures is still a mystery.

Choices - Dec 19, 2005 6:17 pm (#29 of 222)

Your comment, Zelmia, put a curious thought into my head. It almost seems that a portrait is a wee bit like a horcrux. Could a tiny piece of the subject's soul reside in the portrait? Just enough to capture the essence of the person. Could the very act of dying cause the soul to split, so that a tiny piece could remain earthbound in the portrait, while the rest of the soul goes on the next great adventure?

Gina R Snape - Dec 19, 2005 6:31 pm (#30 of 222)

That could be, Choices. But it hardly seems fair. If someone is "ready to die" and a piece of them remains, is their soul truly permitted to rest then? I bring this up because we know ghosts are people who were given the choice at the point of death. If a portrait takes a part of someone's soul, then do they have a choice? Somehow, it just doesn't seem 'right' to me.

On a side note, I do absolutely believe the portraits have been more active over the years than Harry is aware of. I've always wondered if in CoS the portraits told Dumbledore they overheard Harry telling his friends that he was hearing a voice in the walls and could talk to snakes. I have strongly suspected Snape told Draco to use Serpensortia during the dueling club to see if Harry was truly capable of talking to snakes. But he would not have wondered this had the portraits not informed anyone of Harry's conversations with Ron and Hermione. Also, Dumbledore has told Harry he has been watched more than he knows. It certainly never occurred to him until OOP that the portraits might be the ones watching him. I only find it amazing that there were no portraits at 4 Privet Drive.

Oliver Wood - Dec 19, 2005 7:30 pm (#31 of 222)

"I only find it amazing that there were no portraits at 4 Privet Drive."

Aren’t the pictures on the Dursleys' mantle referred to as portraits? A family portrait, one of Dudley perhaps from school. As we know from the Portrait in the Muggle minister of magic office, they don't always have to be mocking and talking to be watching and listening.

zelmia - Dec 19, 2005 9:13 pm (#32 of 222)

That's true, Oliver. But those are photographs taken with a Muggle camera. I think in that instance, Dumbledore was referring to people like Mrs. Figg and her entourage of cats watching over Harry.

Snuffles - Dec 20, 2005 1:21 am (#33 of 222)

I'm sure there is someone/something watching over Harry at Privet Drive. When his first letter arrived they knew where he was sleeping and they knew when he was given Dudley's 2nd bedroom.

Gina R Snape - Dec 20, 2005 7:41 am (#34 of 222)

Actually, Hagrid was permitted to use magic to get a hold of Harry. That's how the envelopes were so precisely addressed. And thank you, zelmia. Muggle photographs are not portraits. I suppose the imposition of a portrait might go against the Dursleys' exquisite home furnishing style.

Choices - Dec 20, 2005 11:45 am (#35 of 222)

Gina - "I have strongly suspected Snape told Draco to use Serpensortia during the dueling club to see if Harry was truly capable of talking to snakes."

I definitely believe that also. I know it was in the movie (thus not canon), but Snape had the strangest look on his face when Harry spoke Parseltongue to the snake in that scene.

Gina R Snape - Dec 20, 2005 9:23 pm (#36 of 222)

Thanks, Choices. And actually, it is canon that Snape looked at Harry with a "shrewd and calculating look."

Getting back to the portraits hanging where they will, DD says in PoA that he had trouble finding someone else to "take the job" of minding the Gryffindor entrance. My guess is that you can hang a portrait anywhere. But if the person in the portrait does not agree to be responsible for minding the entranceway, then he or she will simply never be there, always visiting someone else. Then none of the kids can get in or out of their common room.

Soul Search - Dec 21, 2005 9:35 am (#37 of 222)

Might be a bit more to photographs than I had thought.

In OotP, when Harry first sees Mr. Weasley's office, he notices a photograph of the Weasley family. "Percy appeared to have walked out of it."

Is the photograph Percy linked to the real Percy? or events?

Madame Pomfrey - Dec 21, 2005 2:35 pm (#38 of 222)

That's what bugged me Soul Search. Does the actions of the picture reflect the person's feeling/mood? At the time Percy had become estranged from his family. Did he just disappear from the photo or did he go to another photo, maybe a pic of Penelope?

On a second thought, Percy could have stopped by the office and performed magic to remove his pic. Sort of like the way Moody was able to move people around in The Orders picture.

Choices - Dec 21, 2005 6:56 pm (#39 of 222)

.....and if the rift is ever healed between Percy and the family, do you think he will return to the photograph?

The giant squid - Dec 22, 2005 1:14 am (#40 of 222)

The main difference we've observed between pictures & portraits is that the portraits interact with the "outside" world, while pictures remain within themselves. While there might be reactions of pics to the real world (Percy leaving the picture, Harry trying to get away from Lockhart) they do not actually interact (i.e. pictures don't talk). If they did, I'm sure Harry would have had quite a few conversations with the pictures of his parents that Hagrid gave him at the end of PS/SS.


Soul Search - Dec 22, 2005 8:37 am (#41 of 222)

We know that photographs are made with a Muggle camera and film, but the film is developed in some special potion. How are portraits made?

Is there a wizard "artist" that paints the portrait, perhaps with special paint and a wand instead of a brush?

Was Dumbledore's portrait already made? Or did it just magically appear?

There must be more to portraits if the Fat Lady and Violet can get drunk on the wine in another portrait.

What about chocolate frog cards? Are they "portraits" and could Dumbledore "see" anyone looking at his card?

Inquiring minds want or know.

Esther Rose - Dec 22, 2005 9:18 am (#42 of 222)

Soul Search,

I have always wondered about where chocolate frog Dumbledore walks off to in SS. Dumbledore might have a secret up his sleeve. I can only imagine that Dumbledore has a similar card and looks through to see who is where or that pensieve of his has a second use. If you can see the past through the pensieve, can you see the present? (how about the future?)

Gina R Snape - Dec 22, 2005 9:22 am (#43 of 222)

I wonder if some people request things in their portraits. Violet and the Fat Lady couldn't drink wine if none of the portraits had wine to share, right? I wouldn't want my portrait to spend an eternity without a chair to sit in or some snacks available!

haymoni - Dec 22, 2005 10:33 am (#44 of 222)

Maybe that's why Mrs. Black is so grumpy.

Solitaire - Dec 22, 2005 10:52 pm (#45 of 222)

Since learning about Occlumency and Legilimency, I figured that Snape was trying to probe Harry's thoughts and picked up something about the voices that way ... rather than from the portraits.


Jake C - Dec 23, 2005 5:34 pm (#46 of 222)

I've just had a thought. ~If you take a portrait off the wall can it still move between paintings?

Oh and also this is quite horrible but what do you think would happen if someone painted a dragon or basilisk or something would it kill all the things and people in the other paintings, im guessing it would. The fat lady took wine from another painting, proving that things from other paintings can touch each other and act as you would expect in real life. Then surely a dragon would kill all the people in the portraits... wouldn't it be funny if that happened when people were having lessons and they came back and they couldn't get in their common room... lol

Also when i first read this something immediately sparked in my brain. Doesn't it remind you a bit ghosts, aren't portraits an 'imprint of a departed soul'. Now i think about it properly, the connections between ghosts and portraits are quite astonishing, don't you think?

Choices - Dec 23, 2005 6:32 pm (#47 of 222)

Well, ghosts are somewhat more mobile than portrait people....but then ghosts can't eat or drink and portrait people can.

Jake C - Dec 24, 2005 5:59 am (#48 of 222)

Yeah, strange.

Oliver Wood - Dec 27, 2005 1:34 pm (#49 of 222)

I've often thought that the chocolate frog cards were more then just trading items. I even theorized that they could be some method of communication, but hat idea was shot down by Jo in an interview I read not to long ago. A difference between ghosts and portraits though. Didn’t Nearly headless Nick say that a ghost comes back because he needs something fulfilled in life, or something like that, not sure of the quote, it's in OotP. A portrait really doesn't need anything fulfilled does it. I mean DD wasn't scared of death, and we have no reason to believe his portrait would behave different then any other.

My apologies for confusing the difference between portraits and photographs, I was thinking more along the lines of a picture like the one in the Muggle ministry, who sits there and observes but never moves. But you're right, not exactly in the best taste of the Dursleys.

Choices - Dec 27, 2005 6:40 pm (#50 of 222)

Oliver - "a picture like the one in the Muggle ministry, who sits there and observes but never moves"

Actually it does move. Didn't the Minister say the figure sometimes disappeared from the picture? I need to reread that chapter.
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The Life of Portraits Empty The Life of Portraits (posts #51 to #100)

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:50 am

Honour - Dec 28, 2005 1:44 am (#51 of 222)

You are correct Choices, besides announcing the imminent arrival of the Minister of Magic, the "froglike little man did from time to time...

..."occasionally he could have sworn he saw out of the corner of his eye the occupant of the painting yawning, or else scratching his nose; even, once or twice, simply walking our of his frame and leaving nothing but a stretch of muddy brown canvas behind ..."

Gina R Snape - Dec 28, 2005 7:14 am (#52 of 222)

The portrait in the PM's office must get painfully bored.

Jake C - Dec 28, 2005 11:21 am (#53 of 222)

... very very

Phelim Mcintyre - Dec 31, 2005 5:04 am (#54 of 222)

Is the wine drunk in a portrait gone for ever? Or could Violet and the Pink Lady get drunk again?

We know that Colin Creevey's camera was standard Muggle issue, but are all wizarding cameras Muggle issue, or is there a wizarding equivalent (Camelot cameras instead of Canon, Penthex instead of Pentax etc). Does the special developing fluid only work when the person is magical?

I don't think there is a portrait in the Dursleys'. Would it be worth the risk to have Petunia see it? Could Privet Drive be haunted and the ghosts have reported to Dumbledore? Oh so many questions and so few books to answer them.

MWPP - Jan 3, 2006 5:54 pm (#55 of 222)

I agree, It's sad to think of what will happen when the series is over! JKR will need to write a Wizarding Encyclopedia or something.

I do have a few more questions, though. I've been kind of assuming that the Hogwarts portraits might have sort of special abilities, just something that came along with the castle and all its ancient magic and such. Any thoughts? (of course, places like the ministry might have something like that too)

Along those lines... The portraits in Dumbledore's office. Might they be under even more specific enchantments? And speaking of them, do they appear when their subject dies or when he/she retires (or whatever) from being headmaster?

Oliver Wood - Jan 3, 2006 7:51 pm (#56 of 222)

Hmmmm...interesting MWPP. But what kind of special abilities are we talking about? Portraits in other buildings can leave their frames. Even in Muggle buildings as everyone has pointed out to me, which we see in the Muggle prime minister's office. We've seen portraits in other buildings talk, Sirius' mother never shuts up once you get her going.

What kind of special powers do the Hogwarts portraits have?

As far as Headmasters dying vs. retiring for their picture to be on the wall, I thought retirement. Because the portraits were in order of their succession. If they had been by death and say Headmaster 28 died before Headmaster 27 there portraits would be out of order on the wall. I thought it was a "timeline" type gallery of portraits.

Just my thoughts. :-)

MWPP - Jan 4, 2006 3:35 pm (#57 of 222)

Good thinking on the death/retirement thing, Oliver. What I meant by "special powers" was like what Armando Dippet said in OotP "We are honor-bound to give service to the present headmaster of Hogwarts." I was just wondering if they might have to do anything else, or if they had more power to "give service" than other portraits in the castle, or anywhere else.

Choices - Jan 4, 2006 6:07 pm (#58 of 222)

I think it's just that other portraits in the castle can refuse to do what they are asked, but the portraits of former heads in the headmaster's office are sworn to give service to the present head - they can't refuse.

Oliver Wood - Jan 4, 2006 7:57 pm (#59 of 222)

Great Observation Choices.

Like how the Fat Lady could refuse to guard the Gryffindor Common room entrance, but Phineas Nigellus, was forced to go to the #12 Grimmauld Place, and check on Sirius. Also, Phineas Nigellus, has often voice his distaste, and disagreement with what Dumbledore is doing, but it's never stopped him from taking action if DD asked him to.

Gina R Snape - Jan 5, 2006 8:58 am (#60 of 222)

What if all the former headmasters exited their posts because they died? That would explain the order.

I am going to guess that the wine in the portraits enjoyed so much by Violet and the Fat Lady replenishes itself or never runs out in the bottle.

It could also be that DD was kind enough not to force the Fat Lady to stay at her post when she was afraid, but he might have had the power to compel her to stay if he chose.

Phelim Mcintyre - Jan 6, 2006 1:19 am (#61 of 222)

Also, the Fat Lady needed some restoration work. During that time she may not have been able to guard the door.

Gina R Snape - Jan 11, 2006 8:55 am (#62 of 222)

I wonder if part of that restoration included a request to paint in another bottle of wine!

Oliver Wood - Jan 13, 2006 2:43 pm (#63 of 222)

So...the Fat Lady obviously showed that portraits can show emotion, I mean she was frightened at Sirius Black, and gets upset with students when they don't know the password etc. but, is their any evidence that they can feel physical pain? I mean was the fat lady hurt when Sirius Black slashed her, or did a new chunk of canvas and some paint make everything alright. Furthermore, who restores magical portraits?

Choices - Jan 13, 2006 5:55 pm (#64 of 222)

Filch restored the Fat Lady's portrait. I don't believe that she was hurt in the episode - just frightened.

zelmia - Jan 17, 2006 10:00 pm (#65 of 222)

But why? Logically one could assume she was frightened because if her portrait is destroyed, so must she be as well.

Would the Headmasters' portraits feel the same sort of terror? I wonder, since they apparently simply appear once their subjects have "crossed over".

Choices - Jan 18, 2006 10:21 am (#66 of 222)

Since she can leave her portrait, I think it is logical to assume that when Sirius started slashing the canvas, she simply escaped into another near-by portrait and was not injured. It scared her, but her mobility saved her. Only the "setting" was harmed, not the subject.

zelmia - Jan 18, 2006 2:02 pm (#67 of 222)

Yes, Choices. But why was she frightened in the first place? I am saying that The Fat Lady could only have been frightened, indeed felt the need to "escape" because there must be a way to "kill" a portrait. And slashing it seems like a good start.

Yes, she was able to escape. But what if she'd been unable to get out? Don't ask me how that would be, but just "what if"?

Choices - Jan 18, 2006 5:31 pm (#68 of 222)

I see what you are saying now Zelmia. Maybe her fright is just a hold over from her life. She saw a scary man with a knife coming at her and she was frightened by it. Perhaps portrait subjects never lose their perception of danger. Since we have never seen another portrait damaged in any way, I suppose it is impossible to know (based on book evidence) if the subject of a portrait can be killed.

zelmia - Jan 18, 2006 5:58 pm (#69 of 222)

"...a hold over from her life." Hm. That could be. Good point.

Of course, I am automatically reminded of that film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in which the "Toons" could indeed be ... erased... by some sort of chemical concoction known as "the Dip".

MWPP - Jan 18, 2006 6:30 pm (#70 of 222)

Could it be that she wasn't afraid of being killed, just disfigured in some way?

Gina R Snape - Jan 18, 2006 6:38 pm (#71 of 222)

If Sirius came during the night, she might have been sleeping when he attacked. In this case, she could have been cut/disfigured as well. Being the recipient of such aggression must be scary no matter what the potential damage, I should think.

I have been wondering if portraits could be destroyed since we met Mrs. Black at 12GP. IF she had a permanent sticking charm and never seemed to leave her portrait, why on earth couldn't someone just throw some turpentine on her and be done with it?

Choices - Jan 18, 2006 6:43 pm (#72 of 222)

LOL Good point Gina! I get a very amusing picture of Mrs. Black yelling, "I'm melting" - like the witch in the Wizard of Oz - as she oozes out of her frame.

Oliver Wood - Jan 18, 2006 7:42 pm (#73 of 222)

What if a figure has more then one portrait? Then would both of them have to be destroyed. Like if P.N.'s portrait in the Headmaster/mistress office was destroyed, could it be replaced with the one form #12 and still be able to provide the Headmaster/mistress with information like the original?

I've also been thinking, how does a portrait travel from one building to the next? Characters like the Fat Lady can't do it but others can. Some sort of portrait apparition?

Solitaire - Jan 18, 2006 10:30 pm (#74 of 222)

Are all of the subjects in those moving portraits deceased? Are there any moving portraits of living people? I wonder ...


Phelim Mcintyre - Jan 19, 2006 12:59 am (#75 of 222)

I think Sirius attacked the Fat Lady during the Halloween Feast. So she could have been a sleep as she wasn't needed at the time. Or having a feast of her own.

Choices - Jan 19, 2006 12:14 pm (#76 of 222)

Oliver Wood - "What if a figure has more then one portrait? Then would both of them have to be destroyed."

I would guess that the portraits are like horcruxes - they would all have to be destroyed to kill the subject.

Oliver Wood - "Characters like the Fat Lady can't do it but others can. Some sort of portrait apparition?"

I think the Fat Lady could if she were a real person magically captured on canvas and had another portrait somewhere else. And yes, I believe there must be something like apparition that enables them to travel from one portrait to another in separate buildings or homes.

Oliver Wood - Jan 20, 2006 7:37 pm (#77 of 222)

Choices - "I think the Fat Lady could if she were a real person magically captured on canvas"

Do we know for sure that the Fat Lady is not based off a real person? I don't think her history has ever been discussed.

Choices - Jan 21, 2006 9:34 am (#78 of 222)

We don't know for sure if she was a real person or not. I'm just saying that if she was a real person, and her likeness was captured in two or more portraits, then she would be able to travel between them. Whether imaginary subjects can do that or not, I don't know.

zelmia - Jan 21, 2006 2:00 pm (#79 of 222)

Well, as we've already said, they can certainly travel to portraits that are not their own (i.e. Fat Lady to Violet's) so it follows that they should be able to travel between portraits they are a part of, whether as a former living person or strictly an imaginary one.

Gina R Snape - Jan 21, 2006 2:29 pm (#80 of 222)

It seems to me that portraits can travel to any other portrait within their building. But to leave the building, one must have more than one portrait, and can only travel to that other portrait.

By this reasoning, Phineas Nigellus could travel anywhere in Hogwarts, plus his own portrait plus Mrs. Black's portrait at 12GP. (I don't recall there being any other portraits at 12GP). He could not be asked to travel to St. Mungo's because he hasn't got a portrait hung up somewhere in that building.

Choices - Jan 21, 2006 5:32 pm (#81 of 222)

Very good explanation Gina. Thanks. That was what I was trying to say, but I guess it didn't come out right. LOL

haymoni - Jan 21, 2006 9:30 pm (#82 of 222)

Who would want to visit Mama Black????

zelmia - Jan 21, 2006 10:48 pm (#83 of 222)

I think she just means that Phineas Nigellus could move to that portrait because it's in the same building as his "other" portrait.

Gina R Snape - Jan 22, 2006 10:10 am (#84 of 222)

Yes, that's exactly what I mean zelmia. Thanks.

So, one thing we haven't touched upon was whether or not it is immoral to destroy a painting. Aside from notions of historical posterity, would a painting suffer? Would it be akin to murder? Are they amusing props to be used or are they something along the lines of sentient beings that should be respected? Such a notion might partially explain whey they chose to cover Mrs. Black's portrait and not destroy it when they found it could not be removed because of the permanent sticking charm.

zelmia - Jan 22, 2006 11:03 am (#85 of 222)

Good question, Gina. If one likens these portraits to a computer than it would probably be a lot easier to take a big knife to the canvas. However, it seems these portraits do have a sentient quality. They are (according to Webster's) responsive to or conscious of sense impressions. Personally, I would have a bit of a problem destroying one.

MWPP - Jan 22, 2006 12:01 pm (#86 of 222)

hmm... along those lines, what exactly was Sirius thinking when he attacked the Fat Lady? I mean, it could only serve to alert the castle of his presence, and he ought to have known that he couldn't get in without a password.

Gina R Snape - Jan 22, 2006 3:10 pm (#87 of 222)

I don't think Sirius was thinking. He was acting like a madman, consumed by anger, and eager to find and kill Peter! He rushed in hot-headed. He probably got angry and frustrated with the Fat Lady and reacted terribly, in the moment, without considering the consequences to either his personal goals or the Fat Lady, or the Hogwarts community for that matter.

Edit: As for destroying the portraits, I had a hard time when one of my SIMS died, or when I deleted the program from my computer! Perhaps portraits are similar in that they are "programmed" to react to stimuli, but ultimately are not sentient in the fullest sense of the word.

zelmia - Jan 22, 2006 3:29 pm (#88 of 222)

Could be, Gina. But then again, The Fat Lady was so afraid of Sirius that she refused to maintain her post. Another portrait had to be brought in to replace her. I tend to think she was genuinely responding to a perceived stimulus, rather than a "programmed" response.

Choices - Jan 22, 2006 5:41 pm (#89 of 222)

She did have to be replaced temporarily while she was undergoing restoration - perhaps if not for that, she would have been back sooner.

haymoni - Jan 23, 2006 6:17 am (#90 of 222)

Sirius didn't destroy the portrait of Phineus Nigellus, but I got the impression that he painted over it.

Or is it just covered up with a sheet or something?

I know there is a curtain in front of Mrs. Black, but I wonder if he couldn't bring himself to permanently cover the portrait.

Who makes the curtains open, by the way???

Gina R Snape - Jan 23, 2006 6:40 am (#91 of 222)

Sirius did not do anything to Phineas' portrait. Phineas spent most of his time in the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts so his canvas at 12GP appeared blank.

It seemed like Mrs. Black kept opening the curtain. I wonder how she did that.

Soul Search - Jan 23, 2006 6:57 am (#92 of 222)

Phineas' portrait brings up a puzzle. Whenever Harry looked at the portrait at #12 it was blank, but sometimes he could hear some sniggering. Even when it spoke to him, I don't think there was an image. Was the portrait placed in the room he shared with Ron just to spy on him, or was it always there?

If there are two portraits of the same person, is there one image or two?

In SS, on the train, Dumbledore left the chocolate frog card. Where did the image go? Is there one Dumbledore image for all his chocolate frog cards? Can they communicate?

Surely, after Harry defeats Voldemort, he will get his own chocolate frog card. How is that done?

haymoni - Jan 23, 2006 9:42 am (#93 of 222)

When I read "blank", I thought "a blank canvas" - one that hasn't been painted on - it would be white. Even with a portrait pose, there is usually some color in the background.

If he was "sniggering", was he off to the side peeking at Harry? I thought he was actually there in the painting, but since it was white, he could see Harry, but Harry couldn't see him.

But back to the curtains, how do they open if Mrs. Black is just a portrait?

Choices - Jan 23, 2006 10:12 am (#94 of 222)

Gina - "It seemed like Mrs. Black kept opening the curtain. I wonder how she did that."

Maybe the curtains are "voice" activated. LOL We know Mrs. Black could raise a ruckus when disturbed.

Oliver Wood - Jan 25, 2006 3:51 pm (#95 of 222)

Do you think a portrait can just go barging into someone else's portrait? Somehow, I can't see Mrs. Black allowing a lot of other characters in her frame for a friendly chat.

As far as the blank portrait, I guess I would tend to agree with the notion that P.N. was just off to the side casually spying on Harry.

A new thought that just came to me. What do you think the portraits do over the summer when everyone's gone. Seems like a real bummer to have to hang around the empty castle. They'd need a lot of wine!!

Choices - Jan 25, 2006 5:44 pm (#96 of 222)

They probably enjoy the peace and quiet and catch up on their sleep.

"Are you deaf? Put that light out!!" (portrait to Snape in POA)

Oliver Wood - Jan 27, 2006 1:31 pm (#97 of 222)

O.K. new thought. Can the subject of one portrait harm the subject of another? For example, could Voldemort create a small army of portrait people that went around "killing off" subjects of portraits that may be part of a spy network?

zelmia - Jan 27, 2006 2:21 pm (#98 of 222)

Good question. But if the portraits themselves can be damaged anyway, why bother with a "portrait army"? Why not eliminate the middle man and simply send his minions on a portrait destroying mission?

Of course, this would mean having easy access to Hogwarts. And with Dumbledore gone, the time may be ripe for this.

Oliver Wood - Jan 27, 2006 2:55 pm (#99 of 222)

I guess. I was kinda thinking it would save the trouble of sending in death eaters all over the castle again. We saw how well that worked out in HBP. These silent portrait assassins would be almost undetectable in the castle seeing as there are so many portraits there anyway.

Gina R Snape - Jan 27, 2006 3:42 pm (#100 of 222)

I think it's possible to post a portrait spy at Hogwarts, but its usefulness might be limited. First of all, I don't think it would ever become privy to information within the Headmaster's office. Second, I am guessing the largest amount of gossip that takes place among the portraits is about the students and that might not be the most useful for Voldemort except to scout out possible recruits. And for all we know, *all* the portraits at Hogwarts may be magically bound to loyalty to the Headmaster, in which case its effects would be nullified anyway.
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The Life of Portraits Empty The Life of Portraits (posts #101 to #150)

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:52 am

MWPP - Jan 31, 2006 6:09 pm (#101 of 222)

It seems as if they do have some sort of loyalty to the school if nothing else. I'm wondering about the whole common room entrance thing. It seems as if any entrance is bound to open only for the correct password. Sir Cadogan wouldn't let Neville in without it, but he would let Sirius in. The Slytherin entrance is not a portrait, if I remember correctly. So my point is... how much do portraits differ from the walls, doors, (or paintings of still lifes) etc. at Hogwarts? Obviously they seem bound by the same restrictions when it comes to passwords and such, even though they can (apparently) see and recognize people whereas a plain wall cannot (or can it?) Now I'm confusing myself...

Oliver Wood - Jan 31, 2006 8:18 pm (#102 of 222)

MWPP, don't forget that other things can respond to stimulus as well, for example the tapestry of the fruit bowl reacts to the tickling of the pear. I wouldn't exactly expect the apples to start giving advice to Harry, Ron and Hermione anytime soon though. I guess my point is, while they certainly act behaviorally as a wall, picture etc. there seems to be some kind of "inner" way to process information and make judgments/opinions about the things around them.

MWPP - Feb 1, 2006 5:04 pm (#103 of 222)

Exactly my point, Oliver Wood, so why don't all the common rooms have portraits over their entrances? Then they could use that "inner judgment" to decide, say, to not let Sirius in, or to let Neville in.

On a related topic, I just thought of this, wasn't Flitwick teaching the front doors to recognize Sirius in PoA? Why wouldn't he do the same for the portraits?

Choices - Feb 1, 2006 5:51 pm (#104 of 222)

Flitwick was teaching the front doors and my only thought is....maybe they thought if the front doors kept Sirius out, there would be no need for the portraits to know how to recognize him - he simply would not get in.

Solitaire - Feb 12, 2006 5:56 pm (#105 of 222)

Somehow, I can't see Mrs. Black allowing a lot of other characters in her frame for a friendly chat.

It's rather difficult to imagine anyone wanting to go into her portrait for any reason, isn't it? LOL


shepherdess - Mar 8, 2006 8:20 pm (#106 of 222)

I wonder if Mrs. Black ever visited Phineas' portrait.

Gina R Snape - Mar 10, 2006 8:32 pm (#107 of 222)

I wondered that too, Shepherdess!!!!

Seems to me, Phineas was more interested in the undertakings in Dumbledore's office than hearing Mrs. Black rant about Mudbloods and blood traitors. But you never know. Perhaps even portraits have social obligations to meet. And he does spend some of his time at 12GP.

Die Zimtzicke - Mar 18, 2006 6:53 am (#108 of 222)

Does anyone else think Phineas' portrait was much more verbal and apparently intelligent than others we've seen?

Two points I really agree with:

1) I think it's an important point that portraits talk but we have never seen a photograph or Chocolate Frog card talk.

2) I think it's interesting that Dumbledore didn't care about anything else the Ministry did to him as long as they didn't take him off the Chocolate Frog Cards. What if Chocolate Frog Cards DO talk, but we just haven't seen them? Then could Harry carry his and Dumbledore could advise him?

Solitaire - Mar 18, 2006 9:51 am (#109 of 222)

I don't know if it was more intelligent; it certainly was more ill-tempered and less cooperative ... apparently like the person it depicted.


TwinklingBlueEyes - Mar 18, 2006 6:01 pm (#110 of 222)

Have always wondered about Mrs. Black's statement when the kids arrived at #12 after Author was bitten. "Back again, the blood-traitor brats. Is it true their father's dying?" OoP Chap 22.

How did she know?

haymoni - Mar 18, 2006 7:23 pm (#111 of 222)

Phineas went back to his other portrait.

If it is the one that is in the room Harry slept in, he may have had to do some yelling to attract attention.

If he went to his other portrait and then moved through the other portraits in the house, he may have had the pleasure of spending a bit of time with Mama Black.

Of course, Sirius could have been yelling out orders to Kreacher once he knew the kids were coming - she could have overheard something that way.

Finn BV - Mar 18, 2006 7:28 pm (#112 of 222)

I agree ñ it may have just been word around the house.

Or does Mama (Walburga) Black have another portrait we don't know about?

frogface - Mar 19, 2006 1:21 am (#113 of 222)

Kreacher said that, not Mrs. Black's Portrait.

TwinklingBlueEyes - Mar 19, 2006 3:31 am (#114 of 222)

Thank you for pointing that out frogface. I knew it was past my bedtime.

haymoni - Mar 19, 2006 3:53 am (#115 of 222)

Guess I should have read a bit farther!!!

TwinklingBlueEyes - Mar 19, 2006 4:01 am (#116 of 222)

I know what it was Haymoni! Mrs. Black's screeching Confunded us!

Finn BV - Mar 19, 2006 7:50 am (#117 of 222)

I was just following what you two said!!

bigearl - Mar 21, 2006 1:30 pm (#118 of 222)

I found it odd that Phineas Nigellus called Voldemort "The Dark Lord" . When it seems those sympathetic to his cause call him 'The Dark Lord' as opposed to 'You Know Who' or 'He Who Must Not Be Named'. Harry was about to Snape the same question.

Caius Iulius - Mar 21, 2006 2:10 pm (#119 of 222)

Nice observation, bigearl.

Magic Words - Mar 24, 2006 2:44 pm (#120 of 222)

For that matter, what do we make of the fact that it's "the Dark Lord" in Trelawney's prophecy?

Phelim Mcintyre - Mar 25, 2006 1:45 am (#121 of 222)

Magic Words, when Trelawney "prophesies" it is not Trelawney talking. Trelawney has some low level divinatory abilities but when she gave her two words - one about Harry, one to Harry - it was unlike anything else Dumbledore had seen her do. So I wouldn't worry too much about Trelawney's use of the term Dark Lord.

Magic Words - Mar 25, 2006 7:01 am (#122 of 222)

Yes, I didn't really think Trelawney was a Death Eater. What I'm wondering is whether there's significance in whatever was speaking "through" her using that term. It seems to break the pattern of only his supporters using that name.

Phelim Mcintyre - Mar 25, 2006 11:28 am (#123 of 222)

Could Trelawney be channeling something (or someone) from the future? This question though is for a different thread.

Solitaire - Mar 26, 2006 5:25 pm (#124 of 222)

Phelim, many months ago, I know I posted on the Prophecy thread (or maybe on some other now-defunct thread) about whom she might be channeling. I believe that is just what she was doing in both the prophecy she delivered to Dumbledore and the one she delivered to Harry. The question is ... just exactly whom is she channeling?

Edit: Okay, I did a search of Solitaire and channeling and pulled up a slew of posts on old threads--Sibyll's thread, the Prophecy II thread, and others--dating back at least a year.

One suggestion that came up in those series of posts was the possibility that she might be channeling a dead DE--such as Regulus. Anyone who is interested, just do the same search, and you will find a lot. Phelim, you are in that series of posts, too! I guess great minds still think alike!


bigearl - Mar 27, 2006 2:41 pm (#125 of 222)

The portraits of the former Hogwarts Headmasters, are supposed to serve the current Headmaster. Can they serve others as well? What if The Malfoys have a portrait of Phineas Nigellus also?

Solitaire - Mar 27, 2006 7:41 pm (#126 of 222)

Interesting question, bigearl ... very interesting!

John Bumbledore - Mar 28, 2006 9:42 am (#127 of 222)

What if The Malfoys have a portrait of Phineas Nigellus also? -bigearl

I have had the impression that the portraits appear in the places where the Wizard or Witch spent much of their time during life. Portraits seem to be like an imprint that they have left behind. This fits with the portraits of the former Heads in the Headmaster's office. P.N. has portraits in his former home (#12 Grimmauld) and in the Head office of Hogwarts. The Lexicon states that Dilys Derwent was a healer at St. Mungo's. before becoming a Headmistress of Hogwarts (1741-1768). Did Everard work for the Ministry of Magic?

I don't think Malfoys would have a portrait of Phineas Nigellus, but I don't recall anything in the books that would preclude it. Narcissa may have portraits of P.N. or some other Black ancestor. Though it may be interesting that there has been no mention of portraits of Malfoy ancestors.

<)B^Dò John.Bumbledore

Solitaire - Mar 28, 2006 7:38 pm (#128 of 222)

The very fact that Phineas was a Black ancestor makes it seem very likely to me that Narcissa would have a portrait. Phineas had a certain amount of prestige during his lifetime. This would appeal to Lucius, I believe. JM2K, though ...


Deb Zawacki - Mar 31, 2006 12:29 am (#129 of 222)

Remember in the very first book when Harry sees Dumbledore on the Chocolate Frog cards? And the Ron tells him that Dumbledore can't hang around there all day? Could Harry talk to Dumbledore simply using a trading card? (I'm sure Dumbledore will have portraits in several places anyway.)

And I still want to know why there are no portraits of the founders ever mentioned i any of the books? I would think they would be right in the entrance or in the great hall!

haymoni - Mar 31, 2006 6:25 am (#130 of 222)

I was under the impression that portraits could talk, but pictures could not. They just moved.

Die Zimtzicke - Mar 31, 2006 6:28 am (#131 of 222)

We don't know if the cards can talk. We've just never seen one do it so far. It would make sense that Dumbledore didn't want to be taken off the chocolate frog cards, if they could talk at some point. Harry could have a portable advisor.

frogface - Mar 31, 2006 2:27 pm (#132 of 222)

I don't think photographs can talk. Otherwise I'm sure Harry would have had conversations with the photo's of James and Lily that he has.

I'm not sure Portraits are as capable as they seem either. Remember JKR said (somewhere, can't find the quote for the life of me) that they are not like ghosts. They sort of repeat catchphrases etc of the people they depict. So I'm not sure Dumbledore can be of much help to Harry.

Magic Words - Mar 31, 2006 4:39 pm (#133 of 222)

To me, it all hinges on whether portraits can remember their past lives, and I don't think we have any conclusive evidence on that point. Has there been something I've missed?

Deb Zawacki - Apr 1, 2006 3:51 pm (#134 of 222)

This is one of the great inconsistencies I feel around the idea of talking portraits--they can talk, they can have and express opinions, they can "help" the headmaster, they can travel between their own and other portraits in various locations--but they are not "alive" and are not the "soul" of their owners-- They can't bilocate and the deceased certainly can't move on in the next life if they are tied for eternity to a frame on a wall.

I realize that this is Rowling's version of the magical world, but it seems that when she wants to she can make anything talk--like the shadows of those who came from Harry's wand in the graveyard--they said specific things to Harry--"take my body back, wait for your father"--whatever it is...but they are not ghosts Harry can't call them up at will.

The portrait of Sirius' grandfather was "upset" that he was dead and wandered off to check...Rowling’s' rules are whatever she needs them to be--carefully planned of course, but we are asked to accept some things as truths and others impossibilities.

Nathan Zimmermann - Apr 1, 2006 4:58 pm (#135 of 222)

I can imagine Phineas Nigellus Black's portrait screaming at Bellatrix you did what. What could have possessed you to kill the last of the Blacks.

Magic Words - Apr 1, 2006 5:59 pm (#136 of 222)

Gosh, I had just about finished crying by that point in the book, but the mental image of Phineas Nigellus wandering from portrait to portrait through the Black House calling Sirius's name.... it got me all worked up again.

Oliver Wood - Apr 10, 2006 2:51 pm (#137 of 222)

Was Phineas even fond of Sirius? If Sirius was allied to Dumbledore and his beliefs I could see Phineas being rather snide towards Sirius and the rest of the Order.

As far as being upset that the Black name is ending, that's a pride thing that I could see bothering him.

timrew - Apr 10, 2006 3:00 pm (#138 of 222)

I dunno. I think Phineas liked Sirius because he was a 'rebel'. I like Phineas almost as much as I liked Sirius..........

Magic Words - Apr 10, 2006 3:15 pm (#139 of 222)

That was one of the things that got to me, that Phineas didn't seem to care that much about Sirius when he was alive but then when he died we find out that maybe he did care...

Or maybe not. I know, I'm not adding to the conversation. I'll stop being emotional now.

Choices - Apr 10, 2006 5:40 pm (#140 of 222)

I think Phineas lived a good bit before Sirius' time, so they did not know each other in life, but I do think Phineas saw Sirius from his portraits and cared about him as a member of the Black bloodline. He probably admired Sirius' rebel spirit and intelligence and was disturbed to learn that the last of the Blacks was gone.

Oliver Wood - Apr 14, 2006 4:50 am (#141 of 222)

Who knows, maybe Phineas and Sirius actually talked from the portrait back and forth. Not the Phineas was happy about it, but I could see Dumbledore telling Phineas to relay a message to Sirius. (a.k.a You're not to leave number 12, Harry is fine, stay put!)

Solitaire - Apr 15, 2006 9:47 pm (#142 of 222)

Dumbledore did have Phineas tell Sirius that Harry and the Weasleys were on their way to 12GP the night Arthur was attacked.

"Sirius knows not to destroy your portrait," said Dumbledore, and Harry realised immediately where he had heard Phineas' voice before: issuing from the apparently empty frame in his bedroom in Grimmauld Place. "You are to give him the message that Arthur Weasley has been gravely injured and that his wife, children and Harry Potter will be arriving at his house shortly. Do you understand?"


zelmia - Apr 24, 2006 11:28 am (#143 of 222)
Edited Apr 24, 2006 12:31 pm

Portraits do seem to be able to function in an interactive way with the Living whereas photographs do not. I think the main reason for this (and I believe we've discussed this before) is that a photograph captures a moment in time. A portrait captures the essence of the Subject.

With this in mind, Harry would not be able to talk to photographs of his parents because they would not be able to tell him anything beyond that particular moment. An analogy might be this:

There are greeting cards where you can actually record a personal message of about 5 or so seconds in duration. And though the recipient of such a greeting card is able to hear your actual voice, there is no way he/she would be able to use that greeting card to have an actual conversation with you.

The reason for this is because your voice is simply a recording. It's not actually you in that little speaker mechanism.

It would be similar with the wizard photos. The subjects move and interact with one another - within the same photo (Harry and Lockhart, the Weasleys, etc). There is even a limited amount of interaction with the person looking at them (such as when Moody says "Budge up, there!"). But a photo cannot talk about anything beyond the moment the photo was taken.

As to how this affects the Chocolate Frog cards, I'm not sure. They seem to have the properties of both a wizard photograph and a wizard portrait.

rassannassar - Apr 24, 2006 5:21 pm (#144 of 222)
Edited Apr 24, 2006 6:23 pm

Portraits do seem to be able to function in an interactive way with the Living whereas photographs do not. I think the main reason for this (and I believe we've discussed this before) is that a photograph captures a moment in time. A portrait captures the essence of the Subject. With this in mind, Harry would not be able to talk to photographs of his parents because they would not be able to tell him anything beyond that particular moment. An analogy might be this: There are greeting cards where you can actually record a personal message of about 5 or so seconds in duration. And though the recipient of such a greeting card is able to hear your actual voice, there is no way he/she would be able to use that greeting card to have an actual conversation with you. The reason for this is because your voice is simply a recording. It's not actually you in that little speaker mechanism. It would be similar with the wizard photos. The subjects move and interact with one another - within the same photo (Harry and Lockhart, the Weasleys, etc). There is even a limited amount of interaction with the person looking at them (such as when Moody says "Budge up, there!"). But a photo cannot talk about anything beyond the moment the photo was taken.

I like that theory. Let's go with that one.

Madame Pomfrey - Oct 5, 2006 5:44 pm (#145 of 222)
Edited Oct 5, 2006 7:02 pm

I was just wondering why we assume that a former Headmaster is dead before having a portrait placed. We know Mrs. Black put a permanent sticking charm on hers which means she was alive when the portrait was put up. We also have Lockhart with his numerous portraits. Except for Dumbledore I can't think of anyone whose portrait magically appeared after they died. Perhaps Dumbledore knew he was going to die and placed his portrait in the office while Harry was fetching his cloak. The only other reason for his portrait to appear, that I can think of, is that McGonagall could have put it up, but due to Dumbledore having not been buried yet I don't think she would do that, it would make her appear eager to take his place. Well ..maybe not.

Mediwitch - Oct 5, 2006 6:47 pm (#146 of 222)
Edited Oct 5, 2006 7:47 pm

You know, Madam Pomfrey, I was just listening to that chapter of HBP today, and I was wondering about Dumbledore's portrait too. On other occasions when the portraits are mentioned, it is often pointed out that they are shamming sleep. I wonder if Dumbledore, who appeared asleep to Harry, was really sleeping or if he was listening to the discussion between McGonagall, Hagrid, Harry, and the other Heads of Houses.

haymoni - Oct 6, 2006 6:33 am (#147 of 222)

Did Lockhart have portraits or photographs of himself?

Can't remember - don't have COS with me.

shadzar - Oct 6, 2006 9:27 am (#148 of 222)
Edited Oct 6, 2006 10:51 am

Lockhart, he had everything that could show his own vain image.

Is there a list of what portraits can do, and where they can go? Can they only visit nearby portraits and paintings unless they have more than one of themselves?

"He reached forward, picked up Neville Longbottom's copy of Travels with Trolls, and held it up to show his own, winking portrait on the front."

haymoni - Oct 6, 2006 9:38 am (#149 of 222)

So then you don't have to be dead in order to have a portrait.

Everyone else we've seen in portraits has been dead.

Madame Pomfrey - Oct 6, 2006 9:46 am (#150 of 222)

Mediwitch, I have wondered that also. If Dumbledore was pretending to sleep, he definitely heard McGonagall drill Harry about their whereabouts and Harry's refusal to tell her anything.

Haymoni, we have heard Harry refer to the portraits in Dumbledore's office as "dead headmasters", but I wonder if Fortescue (ice cream parlor) is a relative of, or is possibly the former retired Headmaster.
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The Life of Portraits Empty The Life of Portraits (posts #151 to #200)

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:55 am

haymoni - Oct 6, 2006 11:40 am (#151 of 222)

That I do not know, but I think a re-read of COS is in order so that I can verify the Lockhart portrait.

You would think that if Lockhart had portraits that could talk to him, it would have been helpful with his therapy.

S.E. Jones - Oct 6, 2006 4:53 pm (#152 of 222)

"He reached forward, picked up Neville Longbottom's copy of Travels with Trolls, and held it up to show his own, winking portrait on the front."

This sort of a "portrait" wouldn't be the same as the portraits in the Headmaster's office. The picture on the front of a book is usually a photograph or a reproduction of a painting. The pictures in the office are paintings, just like all the other paintings at Hogwarts. A "portrait" (talking the actual word here) means nothing more or less than a pictorial representation of a person's face or character. So, even when the term "portrait" is being used in the books, we can't just assume that it means a painting. Technically, if Harry had a photograph of Lily showing her head and shoulders, it would be considered a portrait, but, as discussed previously, we know that he can't hold a conversation with her.

My bet is that you can have a painting of yourself made but it doesn't become "alive" until after your death. That might explain why we see multiple paintings of a person but that person moving between the frames as if one frame had been left empty... once the spell on the painting was activated by the subject dying, the person in the various paintings sorta becomes of one mind. I hope that made sense 'cause it made sense in my head, but my fingers seem to be lost at what I meant.

Die Zimtzicke - Oct 6, 2006 5:12 pm (#153 of 222)
Edited Oct 6, 2006 6:20 pm

Jo said the painted portraits at Hogwarts that can talk were all of dead people. I'd have to go look it up, but she said it in reference to a question about what would happen if Harry had a portrait of his parents.

Found it! Edited to show quote from the Edinburgh Book Festival:

Question: All the paintings we have seen at Hogwarts are of dead people. They seem to be living through their portraits. How is this so? If there was a painting of Harry’s parents, would he be able to obtain advice from them?

Answer: That is a very good question. They are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius' mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. If Harry had a portrait of his parents it would not help him a great deal. If he could meet them as ghosts, that would be a much more meaningful interaction, but as Nick explained at the end of Phoenix - I am straying into dangerous territory, but I think you probably know what he explained - there are some people who would not come back as ghosts because they are unafraid, or less afraid, of death.

Madame Pomfrey - Oct 9, 2006 8:14 pm (#154 of 222)
Edited Oct 9, 2006 9:14 pm

My bet is that you can have a painting of yourself made but it doesn't become "alive" until after your death. S.E. Jones

I like that explanation.

Thanks for the quote, Die. So much for Fortescue being retired, He’s more like permanently retired I refuse to say that about Dumbledore though.

Die Zimtzicke - Oct 10, 2006 8:52 am (#155 of 222)

I say it constantly about Dumbledore. LOL!

I am really hoping Jo would not contradict herself when she was as specific about something as she was about the portraits in the head's office being dead people.

Madame Pomfrey - Oct 10, 2006 12:25 pm (#156 of 222)

I don't think she will, but she can be very sneaky...that Jo. I wonder if Dumbledore will have a portrait at the MoM since he was chief wizard of the Wizengamot? That might be helpful in someway.

TheSaint - Oct 19, 2006 10:42 pm (#157 of 222)

Oh...Nice question Madame! Hilarious if it had to hang in the Minister's office. Of course, the Minister would be asking it for advice all the time!

Madame Pomfrey - Oct 21, 2006 6:23 am (#158 of 222)
Edited Oct 21, 2006 7:26 am

Of course!

Maybe this minister will actually heed his advice. I'm doubtful though.

legolas returns - Oct 21, 2006 6:35 am (#159 of 222)

It would be good as a spying post

me and my shadow 813 - Dec 14, 2006 3:49 pm (#160 of 222)

Just back-reading this thread and thanks, Die Z., for posting the JKR quote regarding portraits. I'm trying to come to terms with what she said at Radio City and it seems this quote supports that DD's not coming back. It's disconcerting to me that portraits only repeat "catchphrases" as this doesn't seem very helpful regarding Harry/DD book 7 interaction.

Wondering if Aberforth will have a painting of DD in his abode (room at the Hogs Head?). Maybe with all DD's travels in book 6 he stopped by and made sure Aberforth had one. If so, could it have different catchphrases than the one at Hogwarts... would be nice but probably not.

journeymom - Dec 15, 2006 12:44 pm (#161 of 222)

If all portraits work like Phineas Nigellus' do, then no, it wouldn't work that way. If you remember, Phineas had a portrait in the Headmaster's office and a portrait in the bedroom at 12 Grimmauld Place. He was able to move between them. However, when he was in one the other was empty. Also, the Gryffindor Fat Lady moves from portrait to portrait, and so does Sir Cadogan.

MickeyCee3948 - Dec 19, 2006 7:18 pm (#162 of 222)

I believe that Harry will need DD's help in book 7. At least he could point him in the right direction. The portraits seem to be able to relate experiences and other facts not mere "catchphrases".


Choices - Dec 20, 2006 11:31 am (#163 of 222)

The portraits do seem capable of more than just repeating catchphrases. To me, catchphrases are what Hermione's lesson planners say - "Get your homework done, then you can sit in the sun" ....or something similar. The portraits can hold conversations and give advice and relate what they see from their other portraits. Mrs. Black seems aware of who is visiting in her home and expresses her displeasure about them. That takes more awareness and thought, in my opinion.

Steve Newton - Dec 20, 2006 12:58 pm (#164 of 222)

I have to agree, Choices. If they could only repeat catch phrases how would their advice help the headmaster? How could Phineas Nigellus have grieved for Sirius?

TomProffitt - Dec 20, 2006 3:27 pm (#165 of 222)

Choices, I think "catch phrases" is a bit narrow of a description for all of the portraits we've seen. I suspect, mostly by the way the people of the wizarding world treat them, that portraits (and ghosts) lack some of the key traits that make people more important. Those traits would include intuition and originality.

Dumbledore's portrait may possess a great deal of the knowledge that the living Dumbledore possessed, but it would not surprise me if it lacked the intuition and brilliance necessary to connect things together. For example, it could give concrete information Dumbledore had had access to, but it wouldn't be able to interpret clues and draw conclusions. And I would not doubt that Dumbledore would have arranged to have specific bits of knowledge withheld from the portrait as well. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if his portrait could not define "Horcrux," much less have a relevant discussion on the topic.

Ask a portrait for worthwhile advice? Probably not. But ask the portrait if something similar had happened at Hogwarts before and what they had done then? Yes, that would work.

Just my opinion, of course.

Choices - Dec 20, 2006 6:44 pm (#166 of 222)

Tom, "catchphrases" was actually JKR's description of what the portraits are capable of, not mine. I just borrowed it. :-)

S.E. Jones - Dec 21, 2006 1:01 am (#167 of 222)

I have to agree with what TomProffitt said, and I think JKR's use of the term "catchphrase" was just her way of saying they are mere recordings of the thoughts, experiences, etc. of the person but lack the (as Tom so acutely put it) originality that comes with being human. They may be able to react to the outside world (the portraits at Hogwarts can tell you who was doing what as they would've seen it from their frames), but I doubt they could instigate something on their own, like the way Riddle's diary did (i.e. act versus react).

painting sheila - Jan 19, 2007 7:07 am (#168 of 222)

Have we discussed the founders’ portraits?

Where are they? Why haven't we seen them?

I would think that they would be so very valuable - advise, etc - why are they not in the head master's office?

(thank you Luna Logic)

Mrs Brisbee - Jan 19, 2007 7:16 am (#169 of 222)

Were painted portraits done in 11th century Britain? I'm thinking about how few pictures of early monarchs there are. Maybe some other artwork was more usual during that time period, like statues. Maybe that's why the Founders made objects like the Sorting Hat-- it does sort of hold a "brain" contributed to by all of them, and can hand out wisdom, sort of like the portraits. And it lives in the Headmaster's Office, like the Portraits. Maybe that's one of the roles it was meant to perform. It would give it something to do on the 364 days it isn't sorting.

Choices - Jan 19, 2007 10:10 am (#170 of 222)

I tend to think that since we have not seen or heard of portraits of the original founders of Hogwarts that they are probably not important to the plot.

Soul Search - Jan 19, 2007 10:32 am (#171 of 222)

Choices, or were being saved for a really important role in Deathly Hallows.

Luna Logic - Jan 19, 2007 2:19 pm (#172 of 222)
Edited by Jan 19, 2007 2:20 pm

If paintings (or different magical objects as the Sorting Hat) may be important in book 7,

If a link to the time of the Founders is important for book 7,

the question "why no trace of the Founders in Hogwarts?" may be important too ?

Here is the post which finally made painting sheila, then me following her, to this thread:

in the thread Order of the Phoenix Mediwitch says : "It would seem likely to me that the founders might have their portraits in the common rooms of each of their houses. Many colleges, etc. have named buildings (often after some major donor or former leader) and a portrait of that individual in the building so named. (i.e. "Smith Hall" has a portrait of John Smith hanging in it.)"Mediwitch, "+ The Order of the Phoenix" #571, 17 Jan 2007

The more I read this, the more strange this fact seems (to me).

I agree with Mrs. Brisbee, it could be statues and not paintings.

What would they say, what could they say and to whom, etc., are other questions... But first, are those questions relevant ? In this topic ?

Choices - Jan 19, 2007 7:40 pm (#173 of 222)

I agree the founder's portraits could possibly be important in book 7, but they sure haven't even garnered a mention in books 1 - 6. I suppose I am thinking of JKR's penchant for introducing something important in a previous book - so far no mention of founder's portraits. It's possible she could just spring it on us.

painting sheila - Jan 19, 2007 8:48 pm (#174 of 222)

Maybe they are in hiding some where - being protected by the Order?

Maybe they have clues to the horcruxes and LV tried to destroy them.

Luna Logic - Jan 20, 2007 2:18 am (#175 of 222)


Perhaps for the book 7 JKR has to work on very tiny links with previous books , when the matter is too close of the center of the Horcrux's plot? If as painting sheila says, 'they have clues to the Horcruxes' (or if they are clues).

Concerning the horcrux matter itself, I'm asking myself now, where they real clues before book 6 ?

painting sheila - Jan 20, 2007 9:41 am (#176 of 222)

I remember Jo saying some where that one of the first books had lots of clues if you just knew what you were looking for.

Does anyone recall which book she was referring to?


PS Do you think LV knew where the portraits were? What if he found Slytherin's and Slytherin has been helping him? and the other dark wizard - drawing a blank!! G - something -


Choices - Jan 20, 2007 9:53 am (#177 of 222)

I just don't see how the founders (in portrait form) could have information about Voldemort's Horcruxes when they were a thousand years before Voldemort's time. Would he really have discussed his plans with Slytherin's portrait (if it was there)?

painting sheila - Jan 21, 2007 10:19 am (#178 of 222)

He may have been priming Slytherin for information - spells, theories. Tom Riddle was very good at getting the information he needed with out the person from whom he was obtaining the information being clued in.

Pinky Prime - Feb 6, 2007 9:53 pm (#179 of 222)

Maybe those lost Founder Portraits are located in the room of requirement.

Shouldn't their portraits have links to other places also.

Finally I think Voldie may have more than the blood of Slytherin.

P.S. I'll save Slytherin's reincarnation through Voldemort theory for another thread.

Mrs Brisbee - Feb 7, 2007 3:50 am (#180 of 222)

It occurs to me that there is a statue of Salazar Slytherin at Hogwarts-- down in the Chamber of Secrets. No sign that it could speak, though.

Choices - Feb 7, 2007 10:49 am (#181 of 222)

Pinky - "Maybe those lost Founder Portraits are located in the room of requirement."

I would think that the portraits of the founders would have places of honor at Hogwarts. Just because they have not been mentioned does not mean they are not there. Perhaps it just means they are not important enough to the plot to mention them or where they are. I fully believe they are in the headmaster's office along with the other headmaster's portraits. I don't think they would be hidden away in the room of requirement.

MickeyCee3948 - Feb 7, 2007 10:47 pm (#182 of 222)

I know it's movie contamination but on the extras for the PS DVD, the announcer speaks of at least two of the founders’ portraits being in the outer office down from the main headmasters office. I know this isn't canon or anything, but just adding it for discussion.


painting sheila - Feb 8, 2007 7:20 am (#183 of 222)

With all of the other headmaster's pictures in the DD office - why wouldn't theirs be there?

It seems like a big slip up if it is one. Maybe their portraits weren't done at that time? It may have been a tradition that started later.

What a HUGE help they could be to Harry! if we could find them.

I don't think they were there once and then disappeared - or some one took them down. They must be some place specific and purposeful - where could that be?

Luna Logic - Feb 8, 2007 8:19 am (#184 of 222)
Edited by Feb 8, 2007 8:30 am

Yes, as painting sheila says, where could that be ? What about the third floor, the forbidden Floor in the first book? Just a wing of that floor. It seems very ancient in the film, and I have been wondering how it is described in the book (which I not have at the moment. I did checked in the Lexicon but I didn't found more details...

'The third floor is quite complicated. Without leaving this level the kids run down various corridors, through the trophy room and adjacent room full of armor, near a set of classrooms, and across to the wrong side - the side where Fluffy was ensconced.' Book 1 synopsis, Chapter nine

The Lexicon adds for Third Floor : 'statue of humpbacked witch with secret passage to Hogsmeade, forbidden corridor where Fluffy guarded the trapdoor to the hiding place of the Philosopher's Stone, Trophy Room - where all the old awards, trophies, statues, cups, plates, shields, and medals' (etc. see more in the Lexicon PS8)Doesn't armor, statues, points to ancient part of the Castle? What others secrets there to come?

Harry and friends went several times to this forbidden wing, the first time by accident. Accident ? writing this word, I just begin to wonder...

Soul Search - Feb 8, 2007 8:37 am (#185 of 222)

The founders didn't get along. With Mrs. Black's portrait as an example, can you imagine the din if all four portraits were in the same room. They would argue constantly.

I would think the founders' portraits should be in the house common rooms.

Mediwitch - Feb 8, 2007 10:05 am (#186 of 222)

I agree with Soul Search, and in fact posted that on the Order of the Phoenix thread during a discussion there which involved portraits: Mediwitch, "+ The Order of the Phoenix" #571, 17 Jan 2007 10:26 am.

It's not uncommon in universities, etc. for buildings named for an individual to have a portrait of that individual. In this case, it would be in the individual's named house.

painting sheila - Feb 8, 2007 6:06 pm (#187 of 222)

Maybe they are in the House Head's rooms?

journeymom - Feb 8, 2007 10:29 pm (#188 of 222)

Sorry, getting off on a tangent, but aren't these awards, trophies, statues, cups, plates, shields, and medals potential horcruxes? Tom Riddle's award of merit has been suggested many times.

Good idea, Sheila. Can we imagine a scenario where HRH discover this somehow?

Did all of the Founders not get along? I thought Slytherin broke away, and the other three were unhappy about it.

Choices - Feb 9, 2007 11:23 am (#189 of 222)

I think they all got along fine at first. Then one (Slytherin) wanted to only accept pure bloods at the school and the other three did not agree. Slytherin broke away because of this, but the other three continued to teach and get along.

Luna Logic - Feb 10, 2007 8:02 am (#190 of 222)

As Soul Search, I got the idea (from one of the Sorting Hat' song) that others founders were in bad terms also, once the dispute had been put on by Slytherin. Now, going to Lexicon...

Lexicon, 'Sorting Hat' - In 1995, the Sorting Hat's song went like this (OP11)’

"(...)but then discord crept among us
feeding on our faults and fears.
The Houses that, like pillars four
had once held up our school
now turned upon each other and
divided, sought to rule.
And for a while it seemed the school
must meet an early end.
what with dueling and with fighting
and the clash of friend on friend.
And at last there came a morning
when old Slytherin departed
and though the fighting then died out
he left us quite downhearted."
May we read that as, not only the three against Slytherin, but each against each?

And if so, what link with their portraits (or statues) location?

Choices - Feb 10, 2007 10:36 am (#191 of 222)

"And at last there came a morning when old Slytherin departed and though the fighting then died out he left us quite downhearted."

I does sound like there was discord among all four, but from that last part it seems that as soon as Slytherin left, the fighting ended, but the three were left saddened.

Luna Logic - Feb 19, 2007 2:10 am (#192 of 222)
Edited by Feb 19, 2007 2:13 am

No portrait for the entrance of Slytherin Common Room?

Mrs Brisbee in "+ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ~ Read Along 2007 ~" #112 and #114 brings a problem: The Slytherins don't seem to have a portrait guarding their door. It's described as a length of bare wall with a concealed stone door. So maybe the Prefects do set the passwords. I wonder what the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw doors are like. (bold by me) and later Good point about Sir Cadogan. That proves portraits can set passwords, although they might not always set the passwords. But the Slytherins don't have a portrait where their door is, so their passwords are probably set by the Prefects or Head of House.

Laura W in #115 suggests that may be the passwords are created by the Headmaster.

I am wondering again about the autonomy of the portraits - and about the relation of Salazar Slytherin (and his House) with portraits.

Mrs Brisbee - Feb 19, 2007 5:50 am (#193 of 222)

I think having an intelligent portrait at the Common Room doors could provide extra security-- provided that portrait isn't Sir Cadogan.

There seem to be spots in the castle with no portraits, also (or at least no portraits intelligent enough to report on goings on), like outside Moaning Myrtles bathroom, or the corridor or stairs where Colin Creevey and Justin Finch-Fletchley were attacked in CoS.

Luna Logic - Feb 19, 2007 6:44 am (#194 of 222)

Mrs Brisbee: There seem to be spots in the castle with no portraits

I'm thinking about the Third Floor. The Hospital Wing is on this floor, too. Are they portraits in the Hospital Wing?

Mrs Brisbee - Feb 19, 2007 7:02 am (#195 of 222)

I don't remember any portraits being mentioned in the hospital wing. I think there are certain areas that people wouldn't want intelligent portraits to be, just for privacy's sake.

Steve Newton - Feb 19, 2007 7:45 am (#196 of 222)

If there is no portrait at the Slytherin door who/what do they give the password to? Who gives them the password? I had the impression that the Fat Lady actually opened the door. At least Sir Cadogan says he did in POA when Sirius entered.

It must work differently in Slytherin.

Choices - Feb 19, 2007 10:39 am (#197 of 222)

There were definitely portraits in the hospital wing in the movies, but of course, that isn't canon.

TheSaint - Feb 19, 2007 12:05 pm (#198 of 222)

If there is no portrait at the Slytherin door who/what do they give the password to?

In COS, when Harry and Ron used Polyjuice and found Draco he seemed to give the password to the blank wall which opened. One of those doors pretending to be a wall...or walls pretending to be doors? lol

Choices - Feb 19, 2007 6:15 pm (#199 of 222)

There is a part in POA where the front doors are being taught by Prof. Flitwick (I believe) to recognize Sirius Black. Perhaps the door to the Slytherin Common Room has been taught to recognize the password.

Mrs Brisbee - Feb 20, 2007 5:58 am (#200 of 222)

There is a part in POA where the front doors are being taught by Prof. Flitwick (I believe) to recognize Sirius Black. Perhaps the door to the Slytherin Common Room has been taught to recognize the password.-- Choices

That sounds good to me. While a blank wall might not offer the extra security a portrait might provide, it also won't be wandering off to hobnob with Violet just when a wayward student is hoping to sneak back into their dormitory. Maybe whoever designed the Slytherin Common room made the door with the Slytherin students needs in mind.

I had the impression that the Fat Lady actually opened the door. At least Sir Cadogan says he did in POA when Sirius entered.-- Steve Newton

That does seem to be how it works for the Gryffindor door. It appears to have been designed that way, so that a portrait is needed to open it. I wonder why?
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The Life of Portraits Empty The Life of Portraits (posts #201 to #222)

Post  Potteraholic on Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:57 am

haymoni - Feb 20, 2007 10:09 am (#201 of 222)

I figured all of the houses had different ways to enter. If it supposed to be a secret password and all, I figured some would have something other than a portrait for a door.

S.E. Jones - Mar 14, 2007 7:40 pm (#202 of 222)

The wall may be more intelligent than we're giving it credit for. The stone gargoyle outside the teachers' lounge actually spoke to Harry, and there maybe be something similar outside DD's office, I'll have to check.

Hagsquid - Jul 2, 2007 10:22 pm (#203 of 222)

I know that in GoF, when Harry was trying to use the previous year's password on DD's gargoyle, the gargoyle just started at him. It made no mention of the Gargoyle talking to him. Harry even yelled at the gargoyle, to no avail.

Choices - Jul 3, 2007 10:29 am (#204 of 222)

The one outside the teacher's staff room surely spoke to Harry and I'll bet the ones outside Dumbledore's office could have spoken had they so desired. Maybe they have been ordered not to communicate with visitors.

Hagsquid - Jul 3, 2007 10:50 am (#205 of 222)

Definitely a possibility. They obviously have some level of intelligence or they would not be able to recognize the passwords, and we know that they're animated, because they leap out of the way for Harry in book... I think three.

Although, back the portraits, some photos are able to at least scream. In OP, some of Sirius' family photos "squealed shrilly" when they threw them out.

TwinklingBlueEyes - Jul 5, 2007 6:39 am (#206 of 222)

Chapter or page number please?

Hagsquid - Jul 5, 2007 10:14 am (#207 of 222)

Sorry, don't have my book with me. It's near the start of the book, when they start cleaning out the house. Kreacher appears for the first time and calls Hermione a mud-blood just before it happens. It's talking about how they're battling the house, which is being aided by Kreacher. The chapter before Harry's trial. I'll look it up when I get back with my book. Very Happy

Luna Logic - Jul 5, 2007 12:31 pm (#208 of 222)
Edited by Jul 5, 2007 1:32 pm

Chapter six, four pages before the end of chapter (I have only a French version of Book 5). They found these pictures in the dining room.

Hagsquid - Jul 5, 2007 1:01 pm (#209 of 222)
Edited Jul 5, 2007 2:02 pm

So the translation stayed? I was worried that it was just an unfortunate use of the word "squealed." Good to know that "squealed shrilly" wasn't just a bad use of words.

Luna Logic - Jul 5, 2007 1:23 pm (#210 of 222)

In French : "une sÈrie de photos anciennes (...) dont les sujets poussËrent de petits cris aigus lorsque le verre qui les protÈgeait se brisa dans leur chute."

Approximate translation (sorry !) :

A series of old photographs (...) whose subjects pushed small acute cries when glass which protected them broke in their fall.

"petits cris aigus" : little acute shouting? So, yes, they are shouting but I am sure that JKR wording is so much better!

Hagsquid - Jul 5, 2007 1:26 pm (#211 of 222)

At least we can be somewhat sure that it was meant to be an audible shriek. ^^

PeskyPixie - Sep 30, 2007 9:15 am (#212 of 222)

My friend and I regard the portraits in the headmaster's office as being somewhat different from other magical objects (e.g. Marauder's Map, the Fat Lady) which act as 'recordings' of individuals.

The portraits in the office seem to be able to think for themselves in a manner not demonstrated in other objects. We (my friend and I) see them as portals through which souls of departed head masters/mistresses may contact and aid the current headmaster/mistress of Hogwarts in times of need. While the 'recorded message' aspect remains, my friends and I regard Dumbledore's strategizing and Phineas' ability to feel the loss of his last descendant as the presence of their respective souls.

TwinklingBlueEyes - Oct 2, 2007 7:26 am (#213 of 222)

I agree Pixie, I have always viewed the portraits of the headmasters differently than the others in the castle. I think JKR's answer to how the portraits worked was a spur of the moment, calming, off the top of her head answer to a question her fans were demanding to know an answer to. I think to make the story more believable, she had to show the former heads as "more" than the other portraits in breadth and scope, she just didn't have the time to think through her answer as to how portraits work and go into detail the differences.

She has been a busy lady in the past few years!

Mrs Brisbee - Oct 2, 2007 7:42 am (#214 of 222)
Edited Oct 2, 2007 8:50 am

I think there is a definite difference in quality, with the Headmaster portraits being high end and so giving their subjects more depth of personality than other paintings might give theirs. But they are not channeled souls, they are more like imprints.

Think of ghosts, which are the imprints of departed souls, and very detailed in their knowledge and feelings-- even more so than portraits are, I'd say. But even ghosts are stuck dwelling on their deaths, and their personalities seem frozen in time.

The Headmaster Portraits are very good imprints, but they too will be frozen in time and personality, and they are bound to Hogwarts, which might explain why Portrait Dumbledore so felt the need to sell out the Order and the Trio in favor of Hogwarts and Snape.

In short, they are very good facsimiles, but they have no souls.

PeskyPixie - Oct 2, 2007 2:22 pm (#215 of 222)

I agree with TBE!

This theory works for both my best friend and myself. We do not claim that these portraits 'have ... souls', but that souls are able to communicate through them to advise the current headmaster/mistress of Hogwarts (note the loyalty to Hogwarts) in times of danger. For the majority of the time they are normal portraits with 'recordings' of the individual they each represent, but at times (e.g. the war against Voldemort) a soul may provide advice through it. (My friend and I have a lovely scenario of Snape, in the future, sneering at the Marauders as he heads off with this august group of souls, including DD, to provide guidance to a future headmaster/mistress of Hogwarts!) Of course, we do not impose our belief on anyone, but refuse to change our view even for JKR!

By the way, I honestly don't feel that DD 'sells out the Order and the Trio in favour of Hogwarts and Snape'.

Mrs Brisbee - Oct 2, 2007 3:43 pm (#216 of 222)

If you are set on your theory no matter what, I guess there is no point debating it. I'll just say that I doubt very much that the portraits channel the souls of the departed. The Death Arch seemed to be a doorway into-- something-- and had an odd effect on the viewers of it. The portraits just seem to hang there and be portraits, with no eerie effects even when they move or talk. I'll take the opposite stance then, and say until there is some evidence-- preferable Rowling saying directly that portraits channel dead people-- then they are just elaborate facsimiles.

PeskyPixie - Oct 2, 2007 4:07 pm (#217 of 222)
Edited Oct 2, 2007 5:10 pm

I was not attempting to debate this particular point to begin with. I am well aware of everything JKR has said about portraits, and that most people treat her interviews as the equivalent of canon, for the most part. I was merely sharing a different interpretation of the same text because if not here, then where? By all means disagree with it; I hadn't even expected a single person to agree, but TBE has proven me wrong!

The part about DD selling out the Trio and the Order for Snape and Hogwarts ... totally debatable on the DD thread. I look forward to it if it happens.

Mrs Brisbee - Oct 2, 2007 6:36 pm (#218 of 222)
Edited Oct 2, 2007 7:37 pm

I did not mean to imply you should not share your interpretation. My abrupt manner is probably at fault, sorry.

I have my own ideas that are pretty well unshakable. It is just that I know that if someone showed me evidence I had overlooked, or presented a new way to look at it that I hadn't considered, I'd take it into account and adjust my ideas accordingly. I like the debate here because for me personally, the more angles I look at something, the more I can see it in depth. As for Rowling's interviews, I take them as canon-with-a-grain-of-salt. They are interesting because they show us what she was thinking on the matter when she was writing it. But I haven't read every interview, nor am I likely too. I doubt future generations who read her books or casual readers will be consulting the interviews while reading the series, either. I think any interpretations based solely on the Books is perfectly legitimate, because that's how the majority of readers will be forming their opinion of the works.

I might take the debate to the Dumbledore thread in the future, when I have more time. But I do have a question related to this thread. Is Dumbledore's Portrait, and the other Headmaster portraits, beholden to Hogwarts, and does that color the advice they give?

PeskyPixie - Oct 3, 2007 12:26 pm (#219 of 222)

I enjoy the debate here as well, especially because it's wonderful to consider so many different ideas. I've changed many perceptions I started out with because I preferred someone else's interpretation. The headmasters/mistresses portraits are the only things I'm set on not changing my mind over!!! Thus, I will not be of much help to you as you attempt to unravel the mysteries of the (canon version) headmasters’ portraits!

I look forward to when you'll have more time to post your idea on the DD thread.

Madam Pince - Oct 25, 2007 5:14 pm (#220 of 222)

I've been reading the interview JKR gave last weekend at Carnegie Hall, and she said this about portraits:

Q: Why couldn't Harry speak to a portrait of Dumbledore throughout the last book?

A: Well there are two reasons, three reasons actually... The last bit, why did he have to decode? As Dumbledore says to Harry...to tell Harry about the Hallows was to tempt him. And Harry, throughout all seven books has been incredibly impetuous and reckless. That's one of Harry's biggest flaws. He does tend to act without thinking, and Dumbledore knows this about Harry. He wants him to work it out slowly enough to gain wisdom along the way. That's why he passed the information through Hermione, who is the most cautious person in the books, as you know. And Dumbledore says explicitly, so your good heart isn't overcome by your hot heads. Or I may have paraphrased myself slight there so forgive me. "She doesn't even know her own book!" [laughter] Yes so that's one reason. Harry needs to decode. He said, he does say in this book, he's frightened by his decision not to race for the wand, because he had never chosen not to act. So that's Harry's real big coming of age moment, that he's decided to hold back for the first time very in his life. So the other two reasons that I have for him not to speak to Dumbledore's portrait, first of all, I created a lot of rules for this world and then later had to navigate my away around them. But this rule was always good, and the rule was that portraits could only move between portraits in the same building. So if I'm in a picture and you're in a picture and we're both in Carnegie Hall, then we can move into each other's pictures. Otherwise we can only move only to other places where we have a portrait. You can't just move willy nilly through all the - the Louvre, the Met - you can't do a world tour, as a picture person. You are limited by geography. So there was that reason. And then lastly of course, the third reason, is it really would be too easy and I wouldn't have had a plot."

OK, so.... huh? Is this transcription off, or is she off, or am I just misunderstanding? You can move between portraits only as long as they are in the same building, but then she says "otherwise we can only move to other places where we have a portrait." We know Dumbledore sent Hogwarts-portrait-Dilys to visit her portrait in St. Mungo's. Phineaus goes between his Hogwarts portrait and the one from 12 GP. So how is that allowed, but "...moving willy-nilly from the Louvre to the Met..." is not allowed? I don't think I'm understanding this...

Hogwarts Class of 85 - Oct 25, 2007 11:58 pm (#221 of 222)

My understanding of that interview is that you could go into someone else's portrait only in the same building (like Sir Cadogan leading the quest to find the Divination Classroom), but that you could move to your own other portraits in other buildings. Since Harry et al did not have a portrait of Dumbledore with them, Dumbledore could not visit them through the Phineas' portrait that they were carrying around.

Madam Pince - Oct 26, 2007 4:05 pm (#222 of 222)

Ah-ha! Thanks, Hogwarts Class of 85! That makes much more sense!
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