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Fig. 1: Pan of Rohallion by Frederick MacMonnies (1863–1937), 1894. Bronze sculpture on marble basin. Inscribed “TO PAN OF ROHALLION ANNO DOMINI MDCCCLXL” at base and “Frederick MacMonnies/Copyright 1894 Paris 1890” on verso of orb. H. 291/2 , W. 81/2, D. 10 in. Courtesy Edith Wharton Restoration at The Mount; photography by David Anderson.

Pan of Rohallion is the First object seen when entering The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Berkshire home where she lived from 1902 until 1911. Representing the god of nature, Pan is one of several mythological decorative treatments Wharton (1862–1937) selected for her residence. Wharton’s interest in historical imagery was gained through exposure to classical art and culture during her extensive European travels, which greatly influenced her architectural and interior designs for The Mount.

As conceived by American sculptor Frederick MacMonnies (1863–1937), Pan is a slender, youthful figure draped in a skin, his hands outstretched to hold his now-missing pipes to his lips. He stands on an orb supported by eight fish above a shell-shaped marble basin, the receptacle for the water that once dripped from a shell fountainhead below the figure. The basin is fitted with a dim red light that shines up through the pooled water to provide contrast and cast shadows on the playful figure above.

Pan is one of many bronze reductions produced by MacMonnies after he completed a fountain commissioned in 1890 for the garden of Rohallion, the New Jersey country estate built by the prominent New York firm McKim, Mead & White for financier Edward Adams. The work was one of MacMonnies’s first commissions after apprenticing with the American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and completing studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Reductions of the Pan sculpture were produced for public sale from 1891 into the 1920s, and proved to be a great commercial success for MacMonnies. Edith Wharton was acquainted with Charles McKim and Stanford White, and she may have been aware of MacMonnies’s commission for their firm. Further connections may have been through her neighbor Joseph Hodges Choate, who in the 1890s purchased a MacMonnies sculpture, Faun with Heron, for the garden of Naumkeag, his Stockbridge, Massachusetts, country estate.1

Fig. 2: The entrance hall at The Mount, ca. 1942. Courtesy of Foxhollow School Archives and Edith Wharton Restoration at The Mount.

By placing a fountain, normally reserved for a garden, inside, and selecting as a subject the figure of Pan, the classical god of nature, Wharton was illustrating her belief that an entrance hall should serve as a transition from outdoors to indoors, from natural spaces to man-made.2 Wharton and architect Ogden Codman, Jr. (1863–1951) created the space in which Pan was placed to evoke the feeling of a grotto in the Italian Renaissance tradition. Dark and cool, the room features a vaulted ceiling and plaster paneling shaped like water droplets condensing on cave walls—further creating the illusion of a grotto—with the pragmatic inclusion of waterproof terra cotta floor tiles appropriate for an entrance hall. The sculpture played an important role in this space, heightening the room’s cave-like atmosphere with the light and gentle sound of trickling water.

Pan is the only original work of art at The Mount by an identified artist, and along with fifteen painted panels adorning the walls in several of the main rooms of the house, the only original furnishing remaining from the Wharton era. All of the movables were scattered, most sold at auction in 1935. On loan for many years to the nearby Berkshire Museum for safekeeping, Pan returned to his original location when The Mount’s restored entrance hall was opened to the public in June 2002. The sculpture’s missing pipes and shell fountainhead will be reproduced, restoring the soothing sound of trickling water to the entrance hall.

Pan of Rohallion serves as a harbinger of things to come. During the next several years, plans call for the house to be furnished with period rooms reflecting the Wharton era. With luck, Pan will be joined by the original sculptures, tapestries, and other pieces that once belonged to Wharton as they are returned to The Mount.

Erica Donnis is Curator of Collections at Edith Wharton Restoration in Lenox, Massachusetts. She was formerly Curator of Collections at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. She thanks Scott Marshall, EWR Historian, for generously sharing his research for this article.

1 Mary Smart, A Flight With Fame: The Life and Art of Frederick MacMonnies (Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1996), ix, 88–92; Conversations with Gordon Clark and Will Garrison, Trustees of Reservations, July 2002. The full-sized original Pan of Rohallion is Metropolitan Museum no. L.1987.71.

2 Scott Marshall, The Mount: Home of Edith Wharton (Lenox, MA: Edith Wharton Restoration, 1997), 70–71.

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