Boston Art Commission

« back

Click on thumbnails to view additional images of this piece:
  • Bacchante and Infant Faun, MacMonnies (1)

Bacchante and Infant Faun


Frederick William MacMonnies




Back Bay








Charles Follen McKim


The Bacchante is a dancing devotee of Bacchus, the god of wine, caught in mid-whirl as she teases the babe on her left arm with a bunch of grapes held high in her right hand. Strictly speaking, the bronze dancer in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library is Bacchante III, a replica of earlier identical works by Frederick William MacMonnies. Her predecessor, Bacchante I, was given to the library in 1894 by its architect, Charles Follen McKim. But after a public outcry against the figure’s indecency and inebriety, McKim withdrew his gift and presented Bacchante I to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she remains to this day. Meanwhile, Bacchante II was cast from the original plaster and eventually became part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she is tucked into a niche just inside the Huntington Avenue entrance. Almost a century later the library decided that it must have its own Bacchante after all, and the museum allowed a replica to be cast from Bacchante II to make Bacchante III. The story of the three Bacchantes is a classic example of the ups and downs of public appreciation of art. In contrast, MacMonnies’s statue of Sir Henry Vane was received by the library with little comment and stands nearly unnoticed in a niche just inside the Copley Square entrance.

Audio Description: