“Debauched,” “the worst type of harlotry,” “drunken indecency,” exclaimed livid Bostonians in 1896. You’d think they were describing a celebrity scandal. Nope. The public outcry that lasted more than a year was over Bacchante and Infant Faun by Frederick MacMonnies—a sculpture you might easily overlookon your average museum tour.
Versions of the“scandalous” piece, highlighted on several of our scavenger hunts, which are cool museum tours, will have you scratching your head and asking what’s the big deal?
The sculpture depicts a naked bacchante, a female worshipper of Bacchus (the Roman wine god), holding grapes in one hand and a child in the other. Doesn’t sound like it should be dubbed a “treason,” but in fact it was—by several esteemed Bostonians, including President Eliot of Harvard University, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, who wanted it removed from the Boston Public Library.
The architect, Charles McKim, hadpresented the sculpture as a gift to the library trustees, who stated that the piece was “simply glorious, a beautiful work of art.” But public art in Boston had to meet the approval of the city’s art commission. Poor Bacchante got rejected because she didn’t fit within the guidelines of what experts deemed appropriate. After cajoling from proponents, the board reversed its decision, only to be threatened by bluenosed bluebloods. Fed up, McKim took her to the Met Museum—which welcomed her with open arms. Today, a museum tour of the Met might find Bacchante in the American Wing.
The story doesn’t quit end here. In 1992, the Boston Art Commission and Library Board of Trustees voted to welcome back the statue—well, a replica of it, anyway. You can also spy her dancing while on our museum tours of the Met and in no fewer than seven other museums: the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, D.C.’s American Art Museum, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. (That’s a lot of debauchery, Bostonians!)
All of these museums, and the many others across the U.S. where we offer scavenger hunts, brim with works of art with secret stories to tell. We’ve gathered the best and most beautiful, the strangest and funniest, and plotted them on quirky, fun hunts for private groups and, in select cities, on weekend games for the general public. Explore the rest of this site or contact us to find more museum fun!