Dear Readers –Today on Museum Quick Bites, we’re continuing to seek out comfort, this time through dance. Bacchante with Infant Faun (1894) by Frederick W. MacMonnies (1863-1937) features a young woman kicking up her heels in a lively dance. She is a bacchante, a follower of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, symbolized by the grapes clutched in her right hand. A baby faun, a mythical creature that is half human and half goat, is cradled in her left arm. The infant stares hungrily at the grapes, unfazed by the bacchante’s exuberance. Together, the two are a blend of joy and yearning.
MacMonnies crafted a life-size bronze of Bacchante with Infant Faun for his good friend, Charles F. McKim (1847-1909) as compensation for a $50 loan. At the time, McKim was the lead architect for the Boston Public Library. When construction was complete, McKim donated Bacchante with Infant Faun to the library for display. But when the public laid eyes on the naked bacchante, all hell broke loose. Some locals were scandalized by the statue’s boozy impropriety and feared it promoted nudity and drunkenness. Within a year, McKim capitulated and donated the bawdy bacchante to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it still resides today. Several bronze reductions have since been cast, including the one pictured above that is on display at Art Institute of Chicago.
Approximately 100 years after the Boston Public Library kerfuffle, the city of Boston commissioned a bronze cast of Bacchante with Infant Faun. It resides in the McKim Building courtyard (Yes, they named the building after him!) where she and the infant faun prance and splash in a fountain.
I hope Bacchante with Infant Faun has inspired you to turn on a favorite tune, bust out some moves, and take some comfort in dance. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, stay safe and dance 🙂
Want more dance? Click on this Ballet in Self-Isolation link (courtesy of Reuters), to watch how members of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia came up with clever ways to dance during self-isolation.
Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Art Institute of Chicago: Bacchante with Infant Faun
Boston Public Library: Art & Architecture
Boston Sites and Insights: An Essential Guide to Historic Landmarks In and Around Boston (2003) by Susan Wilson
Google Arts & Culture: Frederick MacMonnies
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Bacchante with Infant Faun
Smithsonian Institute: American Art-Frederick MacMonnies