Bacchante and Infant Faun

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Marble statue at the Brooklyn Museum
Statue at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California

Bacchante and Infant Faun is a bronze sculpture modeled by American artist Frederick William MacMonnies in Paris in 1893–1894.

The bronze cast in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially The Met) was cast in 1894 and measures 84 inches (2.1 m) x 29.75 inches (0.756 m) x 31.5 inches (0.80 m). Many reductions were cast in two different sizes due to its popularity. According to The Met, there are also four smaller (68 inch) bronze versions, two large marble replicas, and three other located over-lifesize bronzes.[1]


Replica in the Boston Public Library courtyard

The life-size nude, depicting the joyous, fluid movement of a woman celebrating while holding an infant, was exhibited at the 1894 Paris Salon to great acclaim. MacMonnies gifted this original casting to his friend, architect Charles Follen McKim, whose firm was building Boston's new public library in Copley Square. McKim offered Bacchante as a gift to the Boston Public Library (BPL) in 1896, to be placed in the fountain of the library's courtyard. Both the library board of trustees and the Boston Arts Commission accepted the gift, and the majority of public opinion endorsed the placement of Bacchante at the library after it was temporarily installed in November 1896.

However, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Watch and Ward Society and local religious groups caused such a sustained public outcry citing its perceived "drunken indecency" that McKim withdrew the gift in May 1897, to save the BPL further controversy.[2] McKim gave the statue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.[3][4]

The controversy regarding this gift, a salvo in the American "Culture Wars", gave MacMonnies and this sculpture a great deal of notoriety in the United States, allowing him to sell many reduced-size replicas.[4] Copies of the Bacchante in bronze or marble of various sizes can now be found in the permanent collections of many museums in the United States and France.[5] A reduced-size version of the sculpture rendered in bronze resides in a private collection in Provenance, New York. The miniature rendition (which stands 30.125 inches (76.52 cm) tall) of the work that once struggled to find a home sold for $4,800 at a 2009 auction.[6]

Shortly after the appearance of Bacchante at the 1894 Salon, France attempted to purchase the original casting for its national art collection. MacMonnies produced a replica casting, which was installed in France's Luxembourg Museum of contemporary art.

A later full-sized bronze casting, originally purchased from MacMonnies' studio by transportation magnate Charles Yerkes, was purchased at auction and loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by George Robert White in 1910.[5] It was later bequeathed to the MFA in 1930 by White's sister, Mrs. Harriet J. Bradbury,[5] and is now on display in the MFA's new Arts of the Americas Wing.[7] Almost a century after the original controversy, the Boston Public Library reversed itself and commissioned its own bronze copy made from the MFA copy. This replica is now displayed surrounded by a fountain in the garden courtyard of the BPL, as originally intended by the donor.[3][8] Another copy resides at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Frederick William MacMonnies: Bacchante and Infant Faun". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Block, Adrienne Fried. _Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian_, (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 108.
  3. ^ a b "Bacchante and Infant Faun". Boston Art Commission. Mayor's Office of Art & Culture (Boston). Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  4. ^ a b "Bacchante and Infant Faun". The Clark. The Clark Art Institute. Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  5. ^ a b c "MACMONNIES, Frederick William". Répertoire de sculpture française (in French). Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  6. ^ "Frederick William MacMonnies". Fine Art May 2009. Rago Art and Auction. May 2009. Archived from the original on February 25, 2012.
  7. ^ Bacchante and Infant Faun | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  8. ^ "Bacchante and Infant Faun Sculpture Restored". Boston Public Library. Boston Public Library. Archived from the original on 2015-07-03. Retrieved 2015-06-16.

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