The Five Wives of Jacovan

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Unlike most of my work, these paintings came to me first as a story that insisted upon being painted: Jacovan and his five wives.

I have no idea who Jacovan or his wives are. Nor do I have an image in my mind of what Jacovan looks like. But the image of the wives was very clear in my mind before I began painting. And each wife 'came with' a personality. It was an odd exercise to attempt to capture the personality on paper. Yet it was easy. There was no other choice. That image is what came onto the paper, complete with the feeling.

It has been suggested to me that these women may be depictions of Beta Israel Ethiopian Jews (also known derogatorily as Falashas), but of this I am not knowledgable.

First wife


First wife is the oldest wife. She gives a sense of kind familiarity to everyone. She is a true confidant, forgiving and patient. She is the mother of three. She is an astrologer, determining time and direction for family relocations when necessary, an herbalist. She is intuitive, a healer, giver of council. She is practical.

Second wife


Second wife is slightly younger than the first wife. She is full of fire and emotion, quite temperamental. She is a masseuse and a mother of three, though two are living. She is loyal. She is a potter of magnificent, graceful clay urns coveted by the region. She speaks her mind, she can have a sharp tongue, but she is loyal, exuberant, and very willing to offer attentive care to the young amongst the families.

Third wife


The third wife is a bit aloof, a bit cool. She sings like a lark in the morning and dances like an angel. She converses with the old pines in the boroughs. She writes lovely prose but only her sisters (the other wives) have ever been privy to reading these. She is observant though a woman of few words, and, as yet, childless. She is diplomatic, precise. She is a weaver of cloth sought after throughout the region. She is tall as a willow.

Fourth wife


The fourth wife is tender and sweet, and very shy. She is sometimes misunderstood, mistaken to be distant and uncaring, a soul always just out of reach though her sisters know her to be insightful, soft, pure sweetness, a speaker in tongues, a quiet healer. She is mother to a robust newborn. She bakes lovely braided seed bread. She is the keeper of the livestock, cooing t0 her infant swathed to her back as she walks with the lambs through the meadow.

Note that there is no Fifth Wife in this collection, though I clearly was to paint five wives.

Here is the description of the fifth wife. Fifth wife is young-- pre-pubescent, in fact. She is the young sister of third wife. She spends all her time with her sister and the other wives, for whom she calls 'Mothers'. She is sweet. She reads and reads. She dances for the flowers in the fields. First wife says this young one has the prophecy of great land ownership. She already shows signs of justice and compassionate influence on others, a wisdom beyond her years. She will be the mother of many. Also indicated in her destiny is prophecy that she will hold a position of political influence [accurate word not available in our current language] unavailable to women thus far in history. To all the family, she is the morning star, the first ray of dawn.

This child wife is very clear in my mind: she has a slightly rounded face, medium dark curls. Her gaze is straight on to the viewer, full of innocence. Yet, I have not been able to paint her and I am not sure why. Possibly, I hit a stumbling block at the prepubescent bride custom. I do sense that her marriage is not to be consummated eminently. Fifth wife seems to have come into the family structure along with her older sister, and is endearingly treated as the child that she is.

I have learned about love from exploring Jacovan's family, this family I seem to have manifested in my mind. I only sense deep love, family structure, joy, support, and respect in this collection of relationships, and in the story. And I find the creative process fascinating.

Maybe I will paint the fifth wife someday.