by Emily Neutron, Fourth-Year Ravenclaw
Where better to start our Portraits of the Month than in the Long Gallery, a space dedicated in part to portraits? This month’s portrait sits high on the wall, next to a window on the middle courtyard. The painting depicts Balearic painting one of his magnificent portraits, moments before he was famously (and rather tragically) consumed by the dragon Hurkek. Balearic is shown in his painter’s smock and hat, with a collection of his supplies and his magical canvas (though we cannot see what he is painting). Balearic’s face shows the confidence that comes from being a complete master of one’s art, and yet completely unaware of the impending doom that awaits him in mere moments.
The story of Balearic Gustaf Tyrvinggi and the Dragon
Balearic Gustaf Tyrvinggi was born in 1402 in Denmark, where he resided his whole life. He was an early pioneer in the use of oil paint, which resulted in strikingly life-like portraits. At the time, artists outside of Europe were still using tempera, an egg-based paint which did not have the same vibrancy as oil. This also makes Balearic one of the first modern wizard painters, in that in addition to his use of oil paint, he is speculated to possibly be one of the great early developers of enchantments to allow the people depicted in portraits to take on certain aspects of sentience.
Apart from painting, Balearic also loved magical creatures. He would spend long periods of time alone in forests tracking and attempting to befriend various magical beasts. In 1448, he attempted to befriend a herd of Centaurs.
Balearic kept attempting to befriend various beasts, eventually setting his sights on befriending a dragon. He met the dragon Herkuk, a Common Welsh Green, in 1488. He fed the dragon at considerable personal expense, and eventually the dragon became reasonably docile. Balearic, believing he had ‘tamed’ and ‘befriended’ Herkuk, had a room built onto his studio to house the dragon.
On the afternoon of November 5, 1489, Balearic was in his studio painting the portrait of a young witch, Helga Vestergaard. He had went to feed Herkuk, as was his habit every day. Unfortunately, that morning, young pranksters had tipped the sleeping cow, and it chased after them, leaving Herkuk’s enclosure behind. This meant that the unfed dragon was rather hungry by afternoon. The painting hanging in the Long Gallery depicts the instant when the hungry dragon has found the painter in his studio. Balearic believes that Herkuk has placed a loving claw on his shoulder. His face shines with confidence and love for this magnificent creature that he believes has just made a significant gesture of friendship.
Moments after the instant depicted here, Balearic was a memory, a quick lunch for the actually rather hungry dragon. The young witch, Helga, escaped the dragon, which is why we have the story today. It is unknown what happened to the dragon, but the incident was used in Denmark for centuries after as a cautionary tale.
How to interact with this painting:
Balearic is quite willing to speak to visitors, and though Herkuk obviously doesn’t speak, he certainly seems to listen. They’re both quite friendly, and they are rather fond of each other. They don’t know anything about the story they portray, and don’t try to tell them about it: it gets them both rather upset. Herkuk is kind of like a huge scaly dog, eager to please Balearic. They can sometimes be found visiting nearby paintings, but their own portraits can be found both in the long gallery and the Grand Staircase. Balearic is willing to give directions. Whatever you do, don’t cast a highly disruptive spell in the Long Gallery, such as Ventus, or you will be years getting them to talk to you again.