Featured in the August 2022 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

Portraits from No One

690 words.
By Leandro Bensussan Lemme.

Why the portraits of the Wizarding World are important and deserve recognition.

If you ask a Harry Potter fan what is their favourite thing about the Wizarding World of J. K. Rowling, probably the first answer you will receive would be the spells; others would tell you Hogwarts and the possibility of studying different branches of magic; some would tell you that the fantastic beasts are what they love; and do not forget the Quidditch supporters. It is understandable, since nowadays fans are highly exposed to the films and videogames where the visuals are the most important elements, without mentioning the merchandise produced by the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Even in the books duels, classes and Quidditch matches are narrated in detail by the author.

However, there is a not-uncommon group in this fandom whose attention is drawn by the gorgeous portraits that are hung on the walls of the castle. The fascination behind these living objects comes from their appearance in the Harry Potter films, when potterheads had the opportunity to appreciate the Grand Staircase in The Philosopher’s Stone. They were supposed to bring life to the environment, moving from one place to the other, chatting around with their neighbours and reacting with external stimuli. Thereby, the portraits around the Wizarding World would not only become mere pieces of decoration, but they would also add hustle and vibrancy to the atmosphere.

Nonetheless, there are other important reasons why fans from all over the world devote their time and energy looking for information about them. The majority of people portrayed – but not all of them – were former students of Hogwarts and all of them have a story to be discovered, since they must have been famous figures in the Wizarding World as having their own portrait at school. For that reason, internauts work arduously to find these achievements during their lives, making the necessary connections in the wizarding lore and learning more about this universe.

Portraits in Dumbledore's office
Portraits in Dumbledore’s office

Some portraits and their achievements in life are: Giffard Abbott, a former Headmaster of Hogwarts whose last appearance was in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in Albus Dumbledore’s office. Phyllida Spore, a Herbology specialist who wrote One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi and also served as Headmistress of Hogwarts. Emeric Switch, another celebrated specialist in Transfigurations whose legacy lies in A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration, a first-year textbook. Quentin Trimble, another former headmaster and author of The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection. Finally, Brutus Scrimgeour, a Quidditch supporter and author of the book The Beater’s Bible and whose critic appeared in Quidditch Through the Ages.

But there is another side of the coin. Fans devote their time to these works to learn about the inspiration for their creation, and a featured figure in this field is a French user called Sebastien Bathelot – aka Alastor le guerrier in the French Harry Potter Wiki. Sebastien has been working in the Harry Potter Wiki since 2016 and has been serving the wizarding community with useful information about the real works used by artists in the film. In his blog, called Poudl’art: La magie des oeuvres (‘Hogw-arts: The magic of the artworks’),  Sebastien attempts to give credit to the painters and artists who adapted the muggle paintings to a more magical look, and at the same time he compares the portraits from the franchise with the original ones, explaining their history and composition.


To sum up, the wizarding world has a vast sea of elements that enriches the experience of fans. Beside the spells and the fantastic creatures, part of the magic found in the series relies on these works which are equally important and the people behind them deserve merit and recognition for their excellent job, dedication and attention to detail. Without them, and without people like Sebastine, the love, care and fondness we have today would be inexistent and the prestige of the saga would not have been incomparable to what we know today.


[1] https://harrypotter.fandom.com/fr/wiki/Blog_utilisateur:Alastor_le_guerrier/Poudl%27art_:_la_magie_des_%C5%93uvres

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