Onfim, “Birchbark Documents,” 12th-13th century
These drawings are digitally manipulated copies of birchbark drawings found in Novgorod, Russia (click here to see an example of what the originals look like) from the 12th or 13th centuries. By the archaeologists’ estimation, the child who drew these was seven years old. In the first one, Onfim has started to write out the alphabet, but got bored and drew himself as a warrior on a horse. The person is labeled, which is where archaeologists determined his name.
The second one contains the text “This is my Dad! He is a warrior. When I grow up, I want to be a warrior just like him!”
These remind me of Giovanni Francesco Caroto’s “Portrait of a Boy,” which features a young boy with a drawing of his. Drawings like these are wonderful, because they look just like pictures modern children draw. This reminds me of how universal human experiences can be (especially for children). No matter where or when you grew up, you probably drew pictures like this, whether using Crayola crayons on high quality paper or scratching into found pieces of birchbark.
Read more about Onfim here.
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