First of all, I believe that according to Grothendieck's definition of dessins d’enfants the picture (if I am looking at the right one) indeed seems to show one. At the same time you have a point that this is not one of the more interesting ones.

On the other hand it might be the very first one Grothendieck ever drew and then one could make a wild guess as to what it shows.
I would venture to say that the diagram in question shows the *complex conjugation of the Riemann sphere*.

If I understand correctly, Grothendieck's inventing and studying dessins d’enfants was motivated by his goal of finding non-trivial elements of the absolute Galois group $\mathrm{Gal}(\overline{\mathbb{Q}}/\mathbb Q)$. An obvious (and the only obvious) non-trivial element is complex conjugation of $\mathbb C$, which actually extends to $\mathbb P^1_{\mathbb C}$, a.k.a. the Riemann sphere.

My guess is that this picture shows that and was perhaps the visual clue that led Grothendieck to make the definition of dessins d’enfants.

**Addendum**: To answer the question raised in the comments: The picture clearly shows a reflection. Complex conjugation is a reflection. I did not claim I have a proof for this, indeed, notice the words *wild guess* above. The only argument I can offer is that

i) it is reasonable to assume that this picture is or at least has something to do with *dessins d’enfants*.

ii) it is a very simple drawing for that

iii) there should still be some significance for someone to have put it in the article

iv) it is reasonable to assume that it is an early drawing of *dessins d’enfants*

v) it is clearly a reflection

vi) complex conjugation is a reflection *and* has a lot to do with the birth of *dessins d’enfants*.

As I said, this is a guess, but I wonder if anyone can offer anything other than a guess.

Who Is Alexander Grothendieck?by Winfried Scharlau. $\endgroup$