Phineas Nigellus Black (1847-1925)
"You know, " said Phineas Nigellus, even more loudly than Harry, "this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are right about everything." (OP23)
(BFT). Interestingly, Phineas'
dates mean that (until his death, at least) he was a near contemporary of
Parentage: not given (BFT). Phineas' surname was confirmed as 'Black' in HBP13.
3 Siblings: Sirius, Elladora, and Isla (who was disowned for marrying a Muggle) (BFT).
Hogwarts: Slytherin (first year 1858 or 59); later Hogwarts Headmaster.
Married to Ursula Flint (BFT)
- Sirius (1877-1952) husband of Hesper Gamp (BFT)
- Phineas (disowned, dates unknown) (BFT)
- Arcturus (1884-1959) (BFT)
- Belvina (1886-1962) (BFT)
- Cygnus (1889-1943) husband of Violetta Bulstrode (BFT)
Great-great-grandfather of Sirius Black, who has been known to refer to him as the least-popular Headmaster Hogwarts has ever had (OP6). According to the Black Family Tree that Jo drew, Phineas is also an ancestor of Narcissa (Black) Malfoy, Molly (Prewett) Weasley and Arthur Weasley (BFT and my notes).
Phineas' portrait hangs in the Headmaster's office along with those of other previous Headmasters, and he rather grudgingly helps Dumbledore when pressed. His portrait also hangs in number twelve Grimmauld Place (OP37); he and Sirius did not get along well.
Phineas is a snide, sarcastic fellow. He has little patience for the feelings and the problems of others, particularly young people, whom he finds tedious and self-absorbed (OP23).
Phineas helped Hogwarts Headmaster Snape keep a track of the movements of Harry, Ron, and Hemione when they were on the run from the Death Eaters because Hermione had placed his portrait from Grimmauld Place into her beaded bag (DH12, 15).
JKR on Wizard Portraits
All the paintings we have seen at Hogwarts are of dead people. They seem to
be living through their portraits. How is this so? If there was a painting
of Harry’s parents, would he be able to obtain advice from them?
Possible name origins: 'Phineas' is an English variant of 'Phinehas,' a name from the Bible. 'Phinehas' probably means "Nubian," though some believe it means "serpent's mouth" in Hebrew (BtN).
In Greek mythology, Phineus was "a king of Thrace and a prophet. Because he prophesied too truly, revealing too much of the gods' truth to humans, Zeus blinded him and set the Harpies to plague him." Phineus later helps the Argonauts by telling them how to get past one of their hazards. (EM)
Phineas' surname was confirmed as 'Black' in HBP13. One possible explanation for the Latinization of his surname ('Black' = 'Nigellus') is that during the 16th and 17th centuries it was common for educated persons to Latinize their names. Perhaps some day we will know the names of Phineas's ancestors. Were they 'Nigellus" or 'Black?'