Frederick W. MacMonnies

(1863-1937)

Frederick W. MacMonnies’' "Bacchante with Infant Faun" was originally completed in 1893. The sculptor made numerous casts of the work – in the original 83-inch height, some 68-inch versions, and many reductions in 34-inch and 16-inch sizes. At least four foundries executed these reductions. Two full-size marble copies also exist. In style the "Bacchante" reflects the new naturalism, vigor, and increasingly decorative quality discovered in American sculpture of the late nineteenth century. Slender in proportion, fluid and graceful, with lively surface textures, the statue is typical of the French Beaux-Arts style, which gradually replaced neoclassicism at the end of the last century.

The "Bacchante" gained infamy when the architect Charles F. McKim, who had been given the first cast of the 83-inch bronze group by MacMonnies, presented the work to the new Boston Public Library for its courtyard in 1897. Bostonians, rallied by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and other organizations, protested the figure’'s nudity and apparent drunkenness, and called the work an insult to American motherhood. The commotion brought national attention to the sculpture; political cartoons both decrying and supporting the "Bacchante" were published around the country, and a “Bacchante skip” for ballroom dancing became a brief fad. McKim withdrew the work and gave it to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bacchante with Infant Faun" is now considered one of the major works of American nineteenth-century sculpture.