Throughout the Harry Potter movie series, viewers got to know most of Hogwarts’ rooms and corners, along with its peculiar decoration with countless magical portraits all over it, and there’s one that has made viewers wonder if Hogwarts had a portrait of Lord Voldemort. Back in 1997, readers were introduced to the Wizarding World in J.K. Rowling’s debut novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first entry in what would become a series of seven novels chronicling the story of “the boy who lived” and Lord Voldemort, the darkest wizard of all who had some truly sinister plans.
The Harry Potter book series was a big hit and a pop culture phenomenon, so it wasn’t surprising that it made the jump to the big screen not long after. The Harry Potter saga was released between 2001 and 2011 (with the final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, divided into two movies), and further expanded the books’ fanbase. The movies also allowed readers to put a face on those characters they knew well, and they also made way for a number of Easter eggs and hidden references that further added to what the books tell – however, some of these details have also caused a lot of confusion, as happened with a very peculiar portrait that showed up in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The third adventure in the Harry Potter saga is the only one without Voldemort as the main threat, and instead, it focused on Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) and the truth behind his imprisonment in Azkaban. Still, some fans are convinced Voldemort also showed up in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban but in a very subtle, easy-to-miss way. Viewers have pointed out that, in the scene where the students are walking through the staircase to the portrait of the Fat Lady, which guarded the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, a portrait of Voldemort can be seen. To the right of her portrait (from the audience’s perspective) is one with three ladies and right below it is one of a wizard that looks an awful lot like Voldemort, with black robes, pale skin, no hair, and a very peculiar nose (or lack of it).
Fans have chosen to believe this was a portrait of Lord Voldemort, but as much as they look alike, it’s most likely just a coincidence. The portrait is referred to as “portrait of a wizard in black flowing robes” as there are a couple of details playing against the belief of it being Lord Voldemort himself. First off, and given his history not only as Voldemort but as Tom Riddle as well, it’s highly unlikely Albus Dumbledore would have agreed to have his portrait hanging on one of the walls of the castle, especially near Gryffindor Tower, where Harry could easily see it. In addition to that, Ralph Fiennes, who played Voldemort from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire onward, hadn’t been cast yet when Prisoner of Azkaban was made, and the final design for Voldemort’s physical appearance in the movies wasn’t finished yet.
The portrait, then, isn’t of Voldemort but of an unknown wizard who, sadly for him, looked a lot like the dark wizard who brought a lot of pain and death to Harry Potter’s world. However, there are still fans who chose to see this detail of the portrait as a piece of foreshadowing, mostly of what Voldemort was going to look like, so ultimately (and unless Rowling or director Alfonso Cuarón shed some light on it), it’s up to every viewer to decide if there was a portrait of Voldemort in Hogwarts, for whatever reason, or it was just a sinister coincidence.