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Cardinal praises portrait destined for alma mater

posted on 19 September 2005
‘You see him eyeing you and you think: What is he putting on the canvas?’

A new portrait of the leader of English and Welsh Catholics by one of the country’s best-known portrait artists was formally unveiled last Friday in the presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

The portrait was commissioned by the English College to hang in its Cardinals’ Corridor and was paid for by Sir Harold Hood, the philanthropist who died last week.

Present at the unveiling at Archbishop’s House were a number of former alumni of the English College, including Mgr John Arnold and Mgr Mark Langham, as well as the portrait artist, Michael Noakes, and his wife Vivien.

The Rector of the Venerable English College in Rome, Mgr Nicholas Hudson, said it was a “superb” portrait of the Cardinal, which “communicates something of his gentleness, and something of his authority”.

Michael Noakes, the portraitist, said he was “absolutely thrilled” to be asked to paint the Cardinal. He said people wrongly associate portraits with ostentation, whereas they are “part of the record”.

The Cardinal said he did not like sitting for portraits, but he had enjoyed sitting for Noakes. “During our sittings, we transformed the Church through our many conversations”, he laughed.

“It’s an odd experience,” he joked. “You see him eyeing you and you think, what is he putting on the canvas?”

The Cardinal said he had spent 14 years of his life at the College as student and later Rector.

“Walking along the Cardinals’ Corridor with all these paintings of every cardinal …. Some are good, and some are not so good. So I’m really delighted that I’m going to be classed among the goodies.”

He went on:

“What can I say about the portrait? There’s a Latin tag, nemo sibi iudex – ‘no one is a judge of himself’. When I first saw it, I didn’t know what to think. I thought, is that really me? But then I looked at it more closely and I saw that it was. It is an excellent portrait.”


Notes:
1. After his portrait is hung in Rome in October, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor will be the 22nd red hat to line the corridor. The earliest is of Cardinal Wolsey, and the most recent of Cardinal Hume. Other portraits include William Allen, founder of the Venerabile and of Douai; Reginald Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury; the two nineteenth-century ‘convert cardinals’, Henry Manning and John Henry Newman; and Herbert Vaughan, who built Westminster Cathedral.

2. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is the fourth Rector of the English College to become a cardinal. Cardinals Wiseman, Hinsley and Godfrey were all former rectors.

3. The ‘Venerable English College’ (known as the ‘Venerabile’) is the oldest English institution outside England. It began as a hospice for pilgrims in 1362. In 1579 it became a seminary for training priests for the mission in England and Wales. In its first century, 44 students were martyred, ten of whom have been canonised.

4. The College community will be this year about 40 strong, including 23 seminarians and ten priests in studies. Six students were ordained this year, one as a deacon for Salford diocese, five as priests of Arundel and Brighton, Birmingham, Leeds, Middlesborough and Southwark.

5. The College achieved brief fame during the papal funeral, when one of its deacons, Paul Moss, sang the Gospel before a global audience of millions.

6. Michael Noakes was educated at Downside and the Royal Academy. Among his subjects have been the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duchess of Kent, President Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Alec Guinness, Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Runcie.
Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Director for Public Affairs
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 19 September 2005

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