The courtyard at the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building, in 1896. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.
The scene in 2021:
These two photos show the view of the Boston Public Library’s courtyard looking diagonally across from the southeast corner. As explained in more detail in the previous post, this courtyard was very briefly the home of Bacchante and Infant Faun, a bronze statue by sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies. Installed here in November 1896, the statue generated significant controversy, both for its nudity and for its apparent celebration of drunkenness. It was placed in storage after just two weeks, and it was subsequently transferred to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, where it remains to this day.
The first photo was taken sometime in 1896, probably prior to the installation of the statue. The library had been completed a year earlier, and this courtyard was one of its most distinctive architectural features. Charles Follen McKim, the building’s architect, had drawn inspiration for the courtyard from the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, and his design features arcaded walkways around three sides, with a balcony on the fourth side. He had also intended to place the statue in the pool in the center of the courtyard, and had presented it as a gift to the library, but he subsequently withdrew his gift in the wake of the controversy.
Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, this scene remains much the same as it did when the library first opened. However, one noticeable difference is the center of the courtyard, which, in addition to the landscaping, now features a replica of the statue that had once caused so much controversy. In the 1990s, the library commissioned a replica of the original, and it was installed here in 1999.