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Lot 129

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Description:

Jack Kerouac's Personally Owned Vintage Hand-Painted Mexican Dolls

A pair of vintage Mexican dolls personally owned by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the famous American writer who brought us "On The Road" (1957). Provenance: The pieces will be accompanied by an estate certification signed by John Shen-Sampas, executor of the Kerouac Estate by descent. 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.

The boy and girl dolls are made of hand-painted clay and dressed in traditional Mexican clothing. The dolls' lovingly hand-painted baby faces and articulated hand-painted limbs can be seen peeking out beneath the felt clothing adorned with ribbons and sequins. Currently, the boy's arms, as well as the girl's arms and legs, are detached but included. This is entirely consistent with age, and likely represents a routine repair. A few isolated chips to the feet, else in near fine condition. The boy measures 9.75" high.

These very dolls are clearly visible in a series of candid photographs snapped at Jack Kerouac's last home in St. Petersburg, Florida sometime in 1968. (We will offer high-quality photo reproductions of these photos with this lot.) In the first image, Jack can be seen lounging in a rocking chair in front of a bookcase cluttered with many objects: a lamp, a clock, a radio, a pair of sunglasses, and these two dolls! In the second image, Jack's wife Stella stands behind his rocking chair; the dolls are still in their place on the book case.

These dolls safely fall under the category of tourist kitsch, but perhaps this appealed to Kerouac, who viewed Mexico in an idealized way. Kerouac visited Mexico about half a dozen times during the 1950s and 1960s. Jack Kerouac and friend Neal Cassady's legendary extended road trip, immortalized in "On the Road", was really four separate journeys undertaken between 1947-1950. In the Spring of 1950, Kerouac and Cassady visited Mexico, venturing as far south as Mexico City, and stopping at Sabinas Hidalgo, Monterrey, Ciudad Victoria, Llera de Canales, and other towns. Kerouac's description of Sabinas Hidalgo, a town about 80 miles southwest of Laredo, Texas across the Mexican border captures one of the writer's impressions of the Mexican people:

"We arrived at Sabinas Hidalgo, across the desert, at about seven o’clock in the morning… Barefoot women watched us from dark doorways. The street was completely crowded with people on foot beginning a new day in the Mexican countryside. Old men with handlebar mustaches stared at us. …A group of girls walked directly in front of us. As we bounced by, one of them said, ‘Where you going, man?’”
-- Jack Kerouac, "On The Road"

To Kerouac and the other American Beatniks, Mexico represented a place where they could enjoy more freedom to experiment with the lifestyles they preferred. More importantly, though, Mexico served as a symbol. Kerouac called Mexico "The Pure Land" and admired its simplicity and earthiness. "Tristessa" (1956), Kerouac's novel about a Mexican prostitute, and "Mexico City Blues" (1959), his collection of drug-fueled poems, were inspired by his time in Mexico.

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

Westport, CT, US

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