Frederick William MacMonnies (American, 18631937)
Bronze; 84 x 29 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. (213.4 x 75.6 x 80 cm)
Gift of Charles F. McKim, 1897 (97.19)
Modeled by Frederick MacMonnies in Paris in 189394, Bacchante and Infant Faun epitomizes the dramatic quality of the French Beaux-Arts style that dominated American sculpture during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The sculpture captures a nude young woman in exuberant motion, her right toes on the ground and her right arm holding a bunch of grapes high over her head. Her left knee pushes upward in a dancing motion, and with her left hand she secures a nude infant sitting in the crook of her elbow. MacMonnies first presented the bronze statue to the American architect Charles Follen McKim in appreciation for a fifty-dollar loan that had facilitated MacMonnies' trip abroad in 1884. McKim intended it for the courtyard of the neo-Renaissance Boston Public Library that his firm, McKim, Mead & White, had designed for Copley Square. After a great storm of public protest stirred by temperance unions, clergy, and other angry Bostonians against the statue's "drunken indecency," McKim withdrew the gift and then offered Bacchante to the Metropolitan Museum in May 1897. The Museum's board of trustees enthusiastically accepted it, and the bronze was displayed for many years in the the Great Hall with other examples of modern sculpture.
Because of the statue's enormous popularity, numerous reductions of it were cast in two sizes. There are also four smaller bronze versions (H. 68 in.), two large marble replicas, and three other located over-lifesize bronzes.