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.”