Portrait of Yermak Timofeyevich
Personality of the Cossack ataman Yermak, who led the campaign in Siberia, is covered with legends. There are many assumptions about his origin. Among possible places of his birth are mentioned the Ural region, the Don and the Russian North. There is a version that Yermak could be of Turkic blood. Description of the appearance of the chieftain is given in one of the Siberian chronicles, compiled almost a century after his death: “he was courageous, humane, man of stature, wise, flat-faced, had a black beard, was of a middle age, slim and broad-shouldered”.
Pictorial and graphic images of Yermak, refers to the fictional image, became widespread in the XVIII century, especially in Siberia. The portrait of Yermak by an unknown Russian artist reflects the romantic ideas of that time about the legendary hero of Russian history.
In the XVI century, when Yermak lived, the portrait genre did not exist in Russia yet. The picture is a peculiar kind of historical genre, when an artist creates imaginary portrait of a person, based on artist’s own ideas about the history and personality of this person. Quite a lot of such “portraits” of Yermak are known in painting and engraving, the earliest ones belong, apparently, to the end of the XVIII century. They were very common among the people. Usually, they depict a middle-aged man with large manly features and a black beard, dressed in semi-fantastic military armor. “Portraits” of Yermak differ in details, but the most frequently depicted of them are: chain mail or armor, consisting of large plates, a spear, an oval gold medallion, a saber with a hilt in shape of a bird's head and an unusual form of a hat with curved brim and feathers.