Frederick William MacMonnies
Pan of Rohallion, 1894
Bronze with dark brown patina
29 ½ 8 ½ x 10 inches
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2010
By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions
Pan of Rohallion was originally created in 1889-90, as a six-foot bronze figure for a fountain on the estate of banker Edward Dean Adams in Sea Bright (Rumson), New Jersey. It was Stanford White of the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White who had brought the sculptor, Frederick MacMonnies, to Adams’ attention. MacMonnies, born in Brooklyn, New York to Scottish immigrants, had received an honorable mention that year in Paris at the Salon, where he had gone to study on scholarship.
MacMonnies’s version of Pan was not the customary satyr but an elegant, attenuated youth draped in a rabbit skin, who serenades the eight fish gathered at his feet intended to spray jets of water. The two pipes or reeds that extend from his lips into each graceful hand were also not the usual version of a pan flute, the musical instrument normally associated with Pan. The artist, working in the Beaux–Arts style seemed more intent to invent a charming sprite for a garden setting than reiterate the familiar mythological character. The figure is delightfully and naturally animated. He fills his cheeks with breath to play his instrument while he arches his back and splays his toes in order to keep his precarious balance on the orb.
MacMonnies’s conception was so admired that Adams permitted the artist to make a number of smaller replicas. The limited editions were cast by four foundries; Roman Bronze Works in New York as well as Gruet, Leblanc- Barbedienne, and Jaboeuf-Rouard in Paris. This version is stamped with the latter Parisian foundry seal and is a superb cast. These “parlor bronzes” were sold with great success through Starr’s Fifth Avenue jewelry store as well as at Tiffany’s in New York. Edith Wharton among others collected these smaller versions. Today they are found in museums such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. While still a teenager, MacMonnies began his career in the studio of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, eventually moving to the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League before heading to Paris to enroll at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts. Finding success in Paris as well as in the United States, MacMonnies was commissioned to design the main fountain sculpture for the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago, entitled Triumph of Columbia, which still graces the city.