The Drunken Indecency of a Sculpture at the Boston Public Library

boston public library, bpl, glen scheffer, panopticon gallery

Glen Scheffer, Inside the Boston Public Library.

The oldest public library in the United States is the Boston Public Library.  The main branch is located on Boylston St. in Boston’s Copley Square section and is the length of one full city block.  Besides housing a plethora of books, John Adams personal library and early works by William Shakespeare, it also has some nice exhibition spaces throughout.

I myself am drawn to the private courtyard in the center.  It’s quiet and it has a beautiful fountain with a bronze sculpture titled Bacchante and Infant Faun in the middle.  There’s a back story to this fountain too.  The sculptor, Frederick William MacMonnies wanted to give this sculpture to the architects that built the B.P.L.  There was a public outcry about it.  The fervor was over the nude nature of the sculpture and its ‘drunken indecency’.  I’m not sure if the ‘drunken indecency’ part has to due with it being nude, or the fact that the sculpture was in honor of Bacchus, a.k.a. Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry.

The library took a pass on accepting the gift.  What we see in the B.P.L. courtyard is a copy.  The original is located at The MET in New York and a second casting of it is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

On a nice, summer day when you sit in the courtyard reading a book or writing, you almost feel like you have been transported somewhere else – like Italy!