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History of the McKim Building: The Courtyard

A history of the McKim Building at the Boston Public Library with resources about the architects and artists who helped to create the building.

The Courtyard

Next to the Main Staircase is the McKim Building’s deep interior courtyard. The wall of the main staircase projects well into the courtyard. Along the other three walls is an arcaded promenade inspired by the arcade of the Cancelleria Palace in Rome. 

The fountain statue is a copy of Frederick MacMonnies' Bacchante and Infant Faun. The statue depicts a Bacchante, a dancing devotee of Bacchus, the god of wine, teasing the faun on her left arm with a bunch of grapes held high in her right hand. The original statue was given as a gift to the library by the architect McKim in 1894.  After a storm of public protest stirred by temperance unions, clergy, and other angry Bostonians against the statue's indecency, McKim withdrew the gift and offered the statue to the Metropolitan Museum in May 1897. The Museum's board of trustees enthusiastically accepted it.  A second cast of the statue had been made in the 1890s and given to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Almost 100 years later the library had a bronze copy made from the Museum of Fine Arts version; this is the statue that stands in the library courtyard today.

Bacchante and Infant Faun

The Courtyard