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Lot 122

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Description:

Jack Kerouac's Mounted Religious Medal Repousse, with Estate Provenance

Jack Kerouac's mounted religious Medal Repousse of St. Joseph and the baby Jesus. Framed dimensions of 3.5" x 2.25", the medallion itself is 1.75" x 1.75". "Made in France" on verso, with the front having the words in English along the right edge of "Saint Joseph", and in French, "De L'Oratoire", along the opposite edge. Provenance: The piece will be accompanied by an estate certification signed by John Shen-Sampas, executor of the Kerouac Estate. John Shen-Sampas is the son of John Sampas, who was the brother-in-law of Jack Kerouac, and the brother of Stella Kerouac, Jack's wife.

Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of immigrants from Quebec on his mother's side. This piece may have been passed down in his family, as we believe it to have come from Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine on Mount Royal's Westmount Summit in Montreal, Quebec. It is a National Historic Site of Canada and is Canada's largest church, with one of the largest church domes in the world. St.Joseph's Oratory is a pilgrimage site for Catholics, with some dropping to their knees to climb 99 of St. Joseph's Oratory's 283 stairs in prayer.

Jack Kerouac was raised as a Catholic by devout parents who had come to New England from French-Canada, the pre-Vatican II Catholicism that saturated Lowell’s tight-knit French Canadian community. Gabrielle Kerouac, Jack’s mother, matched Leo’s, Jack's father's, civic pride with a fervent religious faith. According to Kerouac, "On the Road" was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him. I found him in the sky, in Market Street San Francisco (those 2 visions), and Dean (Neal) had God sweating out of his forehead all the way." At the core of "On the Road", and at the heart of all his work, is the Catholic and Beat insistence upon an underlying spirituality that inhabits all creation. Kerouac saw the world, and everything in it, as Holy. In his view, all experience was an opportunity to, as Wordsworth put it, “see into the life of things.” As Sal Paradise (Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty and all the other rogues, misfits and castaways of "On the Road" go tearing about the country in a wild ecstasy, their adventures of reckless abandon really become inquiries into what are the real values, truths and myths of America. What they expose is "phony and sad". What they discover, at times, even amidst their youthful hedonism, is an idealism and a spirituality that endures not because of modern America but in spite of it. “The Catholic Church is a weird church,” Jack later wrote to his friend and muse Neal Cassady. “Much mysticism is sown broad spread from its ritual mysteries till it extends into the very lives of its constituents and parishioners.”

It is impossible to overstate the influence of Catholicism on all of Kerouac’s work, save perhaps those books written during his Buddhist period in the mid-to-late 1950s. The influence is so obvious and so pervasive, in fact, that Kerouac became justifiably incensed when Ted Berrigan of the Paris Review asked during a 1968 interview, “How come you never write about Jesus?” Kerouac’s reply: “I’ve never written about Jesus? … You’re an insane phony … All I write about is Jesus.”

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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June 24, 2020, 10:30 AM EST

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