Sunday, 4 March 2012

Consobrinal Twinship, Esau and De Wikkelkinderen

Twinship is an ever-absorbing phenomenon for me for I can claim to be one of consobrinal (first-cousin) twins.*  I was brought up as the ‘twin’ of my first cousin (we were conceived in the same month) who was adopted by my mother when her only sister died giving birth (septicemia due to absence of penicillin). We were born ten days apart. Sibling rivalry was compounded by another curious aspect of our upbringing and that was the ‘precocious puberty’ of my ‘sister’, which I now believe was due to her living in a household with the presence of an unrelated male (i.e. my father); from the earliest age she was exposed to non-familial male pheromones, an exposure which is now regarded as the trigger for premature pubertal development. 

Rivalrous cousinhood in twinship is an important sub-theme in my narratives.
As to true twins, the Esau versus Jacob story is possibly the most powerful nativity of archetypes ... BUT ... as distinguished paediatricians have observed (G Corney & W Aherne) the event recorded in Genesis —‘the first came out red’ — could actually be an example of disparity in haemoglobin values, where one twin is born pale and the other twin is born with heightened colour. It was realized towards the end of the nineteenth century that there could be a difference in the haemoglobin values in uniovular twins. As Corney and Aherne affirm, the Esau versus Jacob storymay well have been the first description of the birth of a plethoric twin,’ a syndrome in which one twin is born anaemic, the other polycythaemic.

De Wikkelkinderen (The Swaddled Children) of 1617 depicts infant male twins who most likely succumbed to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTS), otherwise known as ‘placental transfusion syndrome’, a condition that only affects identical twins that share one placenta (monochorionic). This is suggested by their marked difference in colouring — one twin’s face is red, while the other twin’s face is white.

The fine details in the painting suggest that the unknown artist portrayed his subject matter faithfully. The infants in question were the children of Amsterdam Mayor Jacob Dirkszoon de Graeff (1571–1638) and his wife Aeltje Boelens (1579-1620). The painting is dated 7 April 1617, possibly the day the twins died.  Did the twins’ mother die three years later from a broken heart?

* Only recently (September 2013) have I stumbled across the lines by Robert Southey that fully distil the marvel of cousins born at the same hour resembling each other ...

What marvel then if thus their features wore 

Catherine Eisner believes passionately in plot-driven suspense fiction, a devotion to literary craft that draws on studies in psychoanalytical criminology and psychoactive pharmacology to explore the dark side of motivation, and ignite plot twists with unexpected outcomes. Within these disciplines Eisner’s fictions seek to explore variant literary forms derived from psychotherapy and criminology to trace the traumas of characters in extremisCompulsive recurring sub-themes in her narratives examine sibling rivalry, rivalrous cousinhood, pathological imposture, financial chicanery, and the effects of non-familial male pheromones on pubescence, 
see Eisner’s Sister Morphine (2008)
and Listen Close to Me (2011)

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