Charming is a Victorian Era Harry Potter roleplay set primarily in the village of Hogsmeade, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the non-canon village of Irvingly. Characters of all classes, both magical and muggle — and even non-human! — are welcome.

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    The limitations of portraits debate:
    #1
    In the chatbox, I and Kerper had a disagreement concerning portraits and their ability to move around. I'd like for us to finish the discussion here. Admins will of course reach a final decision.

    PS: Kerper, I know I tend to be stubborn, and would thus like to apologize in advance if I came across as disrespectful.
    Reply
    #2
    What was the disagreement? Hard to weigh in if I don't know what's up xD
    Reply
    #3
    (03-31-2016, 09:39 PM)Alberta Blight Wrote: What was the disagreement? Hard to weigh in if I don't know what's up xD

    It concerned the interaction of portraits and their ability to move around, especially the portraits of the great Headmasters and Headmistresses of the past.

    Kreper firmly believes that it is limited interaction between Headmaster portraits and other characters because they are only used to advise the current Head of Hogwarts and cannot leave the Headmaster office if they don't have portraits outside the school. I, however, disagree.

    Pottermore says that:

    'When a magical portrait is taken, the witch or wizard artist will naturally use enchantments to ensure that the painting will be able to move in the usual way. The portrait will be able to use some of the subject’s favourite phrases and imitate their general demeanour. Thus, Sir Cadogan’s portrait is forever challenging people to a fight, falling off its horse and behaving in a fairly unbalanced way, which is how the subject appeared to the poor wizard who had to paint him, while the portrait of the Fat Lady continues to indulge her love of good food, drink and tip-top security long after her living model passed away.


    However, neither of these portraits would be capable of having a particularly in-depth discussion about more complex aspects of their lives: they are literally and metaphorically two-dimensional. They are only representations of the living subjects as seen by the artist.'

    I argued that I believe the Headmasters or Headmistress who does not have a portrait of themselves outside the school presumably have others throughout the school, from where they act as the eyes and ears of the Headmaster, explaining, if only partially, how Dumbledore seemed to know almost everything that went on in the castle. This would also make sense since they are 'honor-bound to serve' the Head of the day, and serve does not necessarily mean they are restricted to only being in the, let's say family home and their old office.

    There is ample evidence that portraits can move between each other's frames within the castle, such as the Fat Lady running between paintings while fleeing from Sirius Black. In the seventh book, CHAPTER 33. THE PRINCE’S TALE, it says:
    'But when Harry burst into the circular office he found a change. The portraits that hung all around the walls were empty. Not a single headmaster or headmistress remained to see him; all, it seemed, had flitted away, charging 560  through the paintings that lined the castle so that they could have a clear view of what was going on.' 

    This proves that Headmasters and Headmistresses can indeed move freely around the castle. They may serve the Headmasters as messengers to teachers if the information needs to be given quickly yet is not so sensitive that it needs to be confidential, they can act as the Headmaster's 'private surveillance' of the on-goings of the student population or simply allow themselves the occasional 'stroll' among the other portraits in the castle.

    While it is true that Pottermore says that portraits would be incapable of having a 'particularly in-depth discussion about more complex aspects of their lives' and that they are 'literally and metaphorically two-dimensional. They are only representations of the living subjects as seen by the artist', they are not incapable of learning new things and if a Headmaster portrait, which is said to be 'capable of considerably more interaction with the living world' than other portraits at Hogwarts, leaves the office to be with the non-headmaster portraits, then they can still benefit and appreciate discussions about the students or any social affair within the 'portrait community'.

    I think we can say there's some sort of ranking system among portraits:

    You have the common portraits, which can interact with each other and the 'living world' and move freely between throughout every frame within Hogwarts castle if they need to, and then you have the Headmaster portraits which are more knowledgeable and revered, and can do everything the other portraits can, while also being entitled to entry to the Headmaster's office and privileged enough to interact with him/her directly.
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    #4
    I'm of the belief that the intention of a Headmaster's portrait is to advise the existing headmaster, and so they should remain in the Headmaster's office unless there is some sort of crisis. Otherwise, what's the good of them if the current head has to hunt through the entire bloody castle to find them? xD Said "other" portraits throughout the school would be of that headmaster, yes, but fall into the common portrait category as they're not the ones who would have been educated by their subject. I apologize if I did not make this clear enough in the cbox when we were discussing it.

    @Barnabas Skeeter?


    (Also, please do check names! We've a Kerp, but no Kerper ^.-)
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    #5
    My understanding from what the wiki says is that all portraits are created with similar magic. The key difference between the two is that more in-depth portraits (not restricted to Headmaster portraits but the primary example in canon) have extra/stronger enchantments and take a more skilled artist to create. They then have to be taught by their living counterpart how to behave over a lifetime. I think it's perfectly reasonable to assume a wizard could only realistically have one of these because of the time, and effort just one would take. And money would be an issue for some, I'm sure. There probably aren't many of these portraits - if any at all - outside the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts, those sort of portraits would likely be in the possession of family or donated to a more relevant location such as the Ministry if they were important there.

    Anyway, as Kayte said, their duty is to the Headmaster first and foremost - if they're not always within reach of the Headmaster then they're failing in their duty. If the Headmaster has to then search each portrait or ask the other Headmaster portraits to go search the entire CASTLE (which has a lot of portraits in it) then he's not doing his duty. It's also important to consider that yes, portraits can come and go freely, but the ones with a duty (who actually do it properly) don't actually go anywhere. The only time we know of a Headmaster leaving is when Dumbledore has asked him to go somewhere for him or there's a war on and they're flammable. A good example is the Fat Lady who never leaves bar very late at night when students shouldn't be out of the common room. Her duty is to guard the entrance, just as a Headmaster portrait's duty is to advise and be useful to the current serving Headmaster. They have to be available and the convenient thing about being portraits is that they literally have no life to distract them from their duties.

    Their duty aside, the Headmaster portraits are probably all a bit self-important and probably don't WANT to fraternize with the inferior portraits anyway - these are men/women who all highly valued knowledge in their lifetime because they ran a school and died doing it so spending time with portraits who lack their intelligence and a full, balanced personality (they are basically caricatures) would probably seem demeaning and quite irritating for them.
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    #6
    I appreciate that Ninclow, and I also too wish to apologize if anything that I said came across poorly.

    Now, with that being said, I was actually super determined to find an answer to this that I actually went back and found two proper canon examples in the books! These examples actually prove that my initial argument [that the Headmaster portraits are unable to move outside of their two designated frames] was indeed incorrect.

    However! I am in complete agreement with Kayte & Olive in that the Head portraits did not just go strolling about the castle on a whim. Their job, first and foremost, was to serve the Headmaster of the day and they had to be available at a moment's notice. Both of my examples suggest that Head portraits only moved under very specific circumstances: 1] When ordered to do a task by the Headmaster of the day or 2] When the school was in crisis and the current Headmaster was actually dead.

    So, continuing along that train of thought, a Headmaster Portrait Character would indeed have severely limited opportunities for interaction as the two above circumstances are extremely unlikely to actually occur in character.

    And now, as promised, the canon examples:
    HP & TOotP - pgs 421-423

    But Dumbledore stood up, so quickly it made Harry jump, and addressed one of the old portraits hanging very near the ceiling. ʹEverard?ʹ he said sharply. ʹAnd you too, Dilys!ʹ
    A sallow‐faced wizard with a short black fringe and an elderly witch with long silver ringlets in the frame beside him, both of whom seemed to have been in the deepest of sleeps, opened their eyes immediately.
    ʹYou were listening?ʹ said Dumbledore.
    The wizard nodded; the witch said, ʹNaturally.ʹ 
    The man has red hair and glasses,ʹ said Dumbledore. ʹEverard, you will need to raise the alarm, make sure he is found by the right people ‐ʹ 
    Both nodded and moved sideways out of their frames, but instead of emerging in neighbouring pictures (as usually happened at Hogwarts) neither reappeared. One frame now contained nothing but a backdrop of dark curtain, the other a handsome leather armchair.

    ...

    ʹEverard and Dilys were two of Hogwartsʹs most celebrated Heads,ʹ Dumbledore said, now sweeping around Harry, Ron and Professor McGonagall to approach the magnificent sleeping bird on his perch beside the door. Their renown is such that both have portraits hanging in other important wizarding institutions. As they are free to move between their own portraits, they can tell us what may be happening elsewhere…ʺ 

    ...

    Harry wanted to ask what the strange silver instrument was for, but before he could do so, there was a shout from the top of the wall to their right; the wizard called Everard had reappeared in his portrait, panting slightly.
    ʹDumbledore!ʹ 
    ʹWhat news?ʹ said Dumbledore at once.
    ʹI yelled until someone came running,ʹ said the wizard, who was mopping his brow on the curtain behind him, ʹsaid Iʹd heard something moving downstairs ‐ they weren't sure whether to believe me but went down to check ‐ you know there are no portraits down there to watch from. Anyway, they carried him up a few minutes later. He doesnʹt look good, heʹs covered in blood, I ran along to Elfrida Craggʹs portrait to get a good view as they left ‐ʹ 

    This section demonstrates that the Head portrait can indeed move freely between portraits in their secondary location, which then stands to reason that they can also do so at Hogwarts. However, had either of these portraits decided to take a midnight stroll the night that Mr. Weasley was attacked, they would not have been there to assist Dumbledore in this most important task!

    HP & TDH pg. 622

    But when Harry burst into the circular office he found a change. The portraits that hung all around the walls were empty. Not a single headmaster or headmistress remained to see him; all, it seemed, had flitted away, charging through the paintings that lined the castle, so that they could have a clear view of what was going on.

    This scene was the extreme circumstance that I mentioned previously. At this time, not only was the castle under attack, but the current Headmaster [Snape] was dead! The Head portraits therefore had no one to serve and decided to abandon their post in order to know what was going on in the castle.
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    #7
    I fully agree with what both Kayte and Olive have said and I don't have much else to add. #uselesspost

    EDIT: Kerp posted before I refreshed - I also agree!
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    Reply
    #8
    Odiva Potter:
    'I'm of the belief that the intention of a Headmaster's portrait is to advise the existing headmaster, and so they should remain in the Headmaster's office unless there is some sort of crisis. Otherwise, what's the good of them if the current head has to hunt through the entire bloody castle to find them?'

    Why would the Headmaster need to look for them? Why not simply state that 'I want you back here in no less than two hours', and the portrait, some of which are painted with pocket watches they can consult to make sure they are back in time or merely ask someone happening to pass by? 

    'xD Said "other" portraits throughout the school would be of that headmaster, yes, but fall into the common portrait category as they're not the ones who would have been educated by their subject. I apologize if I did not make this clear enough in the cbox when we were discussing it.'

    You did make it clear, although I believe you are only being half-right. Let me give you an example:

    In the fifth HP game, Harry Potter encounters a portrait of Professor Fronsac, which is very clearly not the same as the one located in the Headmaster's office. As the latter portrait was painted shortly after Fronsac appointed Headmaster and depict him as older than the first example, depicting him as being middle-aged, it stands to reason that his middle-aged version was painted prior to his Headmaster portrait and are one of these so-called 'common' portraits, capable imitating the living Fronsac's general demeanour and repeat some of his favorite phrases. If Professor Fronsac was a man of certain prestige prior to his appointment as Headmaster, either as part of the staff or otherwise as an important member of the magical community and somehow served a good cause from which many benefited, the middle-aged portrait might have been placed at Hogwarts symbolically. This, however, does not automatically prevent the Headmaster portrait from having more portraits around the school as well, which are, shall we say 'connected' to the one in the Headmaster's Tower.

    As for Elizabeth Burke: I might be wrong, because my memory is not very good, truth be told, but I seem to remember it being said it was confirmed on HP wiki that it was two separate portraits. I popped by Burke's page, and saw no such confirmation. Yes, the countless portraits of Lockhart in his office shows that not all portraits of the same witch or wizard are connected, as I just mentioned regarding Fronsac. The difference, however, is that those two portraits are clearly not the same ones. However, if you take a look on Professor Burke's page, every portrait depicted of her is identical to the one in the Headmaster's office, further increasing the likelihood of the portraits being linked due to the fact that portraits traveling between their own frames never has been known to differ in appearance between them and Elizabeth never do.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ursula Black:
    'My understanding from what the wiki says is that all portraits are created with similar magic. The key difference between the two is that more in-depth portraits (not restricted to Headmaster portraits but the primary example in canon) have extra/stronger enchantments and take a more skilled artist to create. They then have to be taught by their living counterpart how to behave over a lifetime. I think it's perfectly reasonable to assume a wizard could only realistically have one of these because of the time, and effort just one would take. And money would be an issue for some, I'm sure. There probably aren't many of these portraits - if any at all - outside the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts, those sort of portraits would likely be in the possession of family or donated to a more relevant location such as the Ministry if they were important there.'

    Realistically, I agree there would only be 'one of these because of the time, and effort just one would take', but I would only do so because I also believe there are no reason to make more than that one Headmaster's portrait, after which you could simply put up empty paintings with matching the backgrounds and bewitch them so that the first portrait can freely move between these chosen, personal frames, which seems to have been the case of Phineas Nigellus Black, who could move between his Headmaster portrait and 'his other' portrait at 12 Grimmauld Place.

    'Anyway, as Kayte said, their duty is to the Headmaster first and foremost - if they're not always within reach of the Headmaster then they're failing in their duty. If the Headmaster has to then search each portrait or ask the other Headmaster portraits to go search the entire CASTLE (which has a lot of portraits in it) then he's not doing his duty. It's also important to consider that yes, portraits can come and go freely, but the ones with a duty (who actually do it properly) don't actually go anywhere. The only time we know of a Headmaster leaving is when Dumbledore has asked him to go somewhere for him or there's a war on and they're flammable. A good example is the Fat Lady who never leaves bar very late at night when students shouldn't be out of the common room. Her duty is to guard the entrance, just as a Headmaster portrait's duty is to advise and be useful to the current serving Headmaster. They have to be available and the convenient thing about being portraits is that they literally have no life to distract them from their duties.'

    Granted searching the entire castle would be necessary to get their counsel.  I remember in book seven, Hermione or Harry shout for Professor Black, who arrives almost instantly, although they at the time was in the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire, England) and Professor Black's portrait at Hogwarts is mounted on a castle wall all the way over at Scotland. This piece of evidence clearly points toward the fact that the distance between two portraits does not matter, and that in the case of an absent portrait, the Headmaster needs but to raise his voice, which will be carried to the other portrait, like an echo of sorts, only audible to the portrait addressed, as if one portrait leaves for a frame linked to its own and they belong together in a 'set' of portraits, it will be as if they merely went into 'the next room', regardless  of physical distance.

    Also, as advisers to the current Head of Hogwarts, being able to move between frames to keep an eye on things for their predecessors would not only be useful, but also completely necessary. While not actually 'alive', portraits certainly have a consciousness and an awareness of what is going on around them. Not only would the current Head benefit from my 'eyes and ears' assumption, which could become board canon if so desired, but it would also be very much in line with their duties. Consider this: What good would it do the current Headmaster of Hogwarts to have his office full of advisers chained to one place? If they cannot get out and about at regular intervals in order to familiarize themselves with the ongoing situation at the school, their counsel would count for very little, as they would be incapable of adapting to the current struggles of the successor in question and only capable of giving the same old reminiscences of their own tenures. And if they did not do serve their purpose while moving between their own frames, they certainly don't to it if they're only stuck there. The students and staff of Hogwarts changes, and each new Head of Hogwarts is likely to face challenges and struggles that differs from the past experiences residing within the conjured memories of his represented predecessors. They need to adapt to advise.

    'Their duty aside, the Headmaster portraits are probably all a bit self-important and probably don't WANT to fraternize with the inferior portraits anyway - these are men/women who all highly valued knowledge in their lifetime because they ran a school and died doing it so spending time with portraits who lack their intelligence and a full, balanced personality (they are basically caricatures) would probably seem demeaning and quite irritating for them.'

    The other portraits of the school may very well be incapable of having particularly in-depth discussions about more complex aspects of their living counterparts, but they can form meaningful relationships with each other. For example, the Portrait of a witch flying to the moon seemed to have befriended a portrait of a man on a flying carpet. I also seem to remember that the Fat Lady had a friend visiting her in her portrait in book - three or five? Also, the other portraits, which I with the Deathly Hallows example proved the Headmaster portraits are capable of visiting, finds themselves almost always in close proximity to the student body, and are thus valuable sources of information which any given Headmaster or Headmistress portrait can pass on to the current Headmaster upon their return to the Headmaster's office.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Xavier Smith:
    'I appreciate that Ninclow, and I also too wish to apologize if anything that I said came across poorly.'

    You didn't. However, in RL, I have trouble reading situations and might - occasionally - step over the line without knowing it, and so, I just like to be certain that I didn't to it this time. But rest assured, if I feel insulted or hurt in any way, I'll let you know in a decent manner. :-)

    'Now, with that being said, I was actually super determined to find an answer to this that I actually went back and found two proper canon examples in the books! These examples actually prove that my initial argument [that the Headmaster portraits are unable to move outside of their two designated frames] was indeed incorrect.
    However! I am in complete agreement with Kayte & Olive in that the Head portraits did not just go strolling about the castle on a whim. Their job, first and foremost, was to serve the Headmaster of the day and they had to be available at a moment's notice. Both of my examples suggest that Head portraits only moved under very specific circumstances: 1] When ordered to do a task by the Headmaster of the day or 2] When the school was in crisis and the current Headmaster was actually dead.

    So, continuing along that train of thought, a Headmaster Portrait Character would indeed have severely limited opportunities for interaction as the two above circumstances are extremely unlikely to actually occur in character.'

    We never see them move in other than those two examples because are only summoned to the office or enters it when the crisis is of such a nature that it warrants the presence of the portraits. Also, in 95% of the cases, Harry drop by in the evenings or late at night, and by nighttime, even the other portraits at the castle are sound asleep, lest woken up by teachers and students lighting up their wands in the middle of the night. Also, Harry is present and pays attention to what's going on in the canon example where  Dumbledore orders his predecessors to do a task. This, however, does not mean that Harry necessarily would have noticed a handful of empty backgrounds among dozens of slumbering old people. I'd also like to refer to my reply to Ursula Black: If a Headmaster Portrait Character (nice use of terminology, btw, you should coin it) can't venture beyond the wall on the Headmaster's office, they would be deprived of their purpose since they could not adapt to the struggles of the current Head.

    'This section demonstrates that the Head portrait can indeed move freely between portraits in their secondary location, which then stands to reason that they can also do so at Hogwarts. However, had either of these portraits decided to take a midnight stroll the night that Mr. Weasley was attacked, they would not have been there to assist Dumbledore in this most important task!'

    Which of course fits excellently with my theory that  the most celebrated of all the Headmasters are required to stick around more than their only slightly less revered colleagues in case of emergency, while the other Headmasters and Headmistress might have more 'freedom' since they can only contribute internally at the school. 

    'This scene was the extreme circumstance that I mentioned previously. At this time, not only was the castle under attack, but the current Headmaster [Snape] was dead! The Head portraits therefore had no one to serve and decided to abandon their post in order to know what was going on in the castle.'

    The final paragraph, the one I came with which you repeated, just invalidated the evidence of you provided for headmaster portraits being unable to move beyond the office.

    They did not 'abandon their post' because the Headmaster was dead and they had 'no one to serve', because they had no possible way of knowing Severus Snape had been murdered by Voldemort in the Shrieking Shack. As you might recall, Snape's portrait did not immediately appear on the wall because he had abandoned his post when fleeing from McGonagall and Co. Alas, all they knew was that Snape had gone out for a walk, and some time later, they must have heard Lord Voldemort's voice call out, like Hogsmeade and the rest of the castle did. While are honor-bound to serve the current Headmaster, I think they'd be genuinely concerned for the well-being of its inhabitants. 

    Since Snape  was not there to instruct them on what ought to be their next course of action, and were unlikely to return because the school was under siege to instruct them because - the head portraits knew he was an double agent, having been present at private conversations between Snape and Dumbledore - and presumably deceided that he'd be too busy by far with protecting the school to talk to portraits.  Alas, instinctively, with they served the Headmaster of Hogwarts during the Battle of Hogwarts the only way in which they was physically capable: They assisted the school, and by doing so, in extension, the Headmaster, by charging through the paintings that lined the castle to get a 'a clear view of what was going on' and then later joined their less sophisticated brothers in paints in screaming news from other parts of the castle or giving encouragements to the fighting Hogwartians.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Reply
    #9
    We can theorize on what JKR hasn't entirely revealed in canon yet all day and we won't know for sure unless she reveals the information through Pottermore or another official source. The lack of complete certainty on either side of the discussion means the staff have to set a board canon that we feel works as seamlessly with the knowledge we have of actual canon. To that end, it seems the staff are currently in agreement that Headmaster portraits should remain in the Headmaster's office unless given permission by the current serving Headmaster which is @Phineas Black.
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    #10
    In the seventh book, Hermione just shouts the name of Professor Black at the empty frame while they're in the Forest of Dean, and he appeared to hear them and go to it. If a sitting Headmaster needed a portrait of a former Headmaster or Headmistress who was off elsewhere in the castle or in another location, I firmly believe all he need to do is to call on them, and they will heed the call and return to the office.
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