Alfredo Biagini was born in Rome in 1886. He trained from 1905 to 1909 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. After this first phase of studies, he moved for a period to Paris, where he intended to take anatomy courses and study the animals in the city’s zoo.
It was here that his identity as an animalier artist was born. He shuttled back and forth between Rome and Paris, until just before the war, when he settled in Villa Strohl-Fern. Here he naturally approached the decorative line of Secessionist taste, providing his exotic animals with a unique executive synthesis, characterised by stylisation and formal balance.
Secessionist taste and animalier sculpture
At the 1915 Secession Exhibition he exhibited Penguin, Otaria, Serval and a Sleeping Maiden and two years later he took part in the decoration of the Cinema Corso designed by the architect Marcello Piacentini, with whom he established a lasting artistic association. In fact, in 1918 he took part in the exhibition at the Casina del Pincio organised by Piacentini himself and dedicated to the generation of young sculptors.
He began to achieve his first successes and to exhibit at national and international level, combining the anatomical and synthetic study of animals with that of the female figure, treated with purity and harmony, without ever neglecting decorative taste.
At the Florentine Spring Exhibition of 1922 a series of animals such as the Stag, Panther and Lion appeared, as well as plaster masks, Leda, Diana and Dancer, figures in the round and bas-reliefs that also convey Biagini’s study of antiquity.
In 1925 he produced Amatria, a marble monkey for the staircase of the Teatro Quirinetta, inspired by an Egyptian votive statuette of the god Thot that Biagini studied at the Louvre during his Parisian years. Public and private decorative sculpture accompanied him for many years: in 1930 he executed the Via Crucis for the Cristo Re Hospital, again in collaboration with Piacentini, and then devoted himself to relief work with Virgilian Georgics for the Fascist Social Security Institute in Piazza Augusto Imperatore.
At the Venice Biennale in 1926 he presented the harmonious Red Cercopithecus, one of his most famous and successful sculptures, in its formal perfection, in the precise counterpoint that contrasts curved and synthetic lines with sharper and more rigid ones, in the construction of a small animal anatomically close to reality.
At the 1929 Rome Exhibition he presented Head of a Child, Fauness, Judith, Head and again Red Cercopithecus, while at the 1932 Biennale he presented Saint Sebastian, Woman’s Torso and Ariadne. The usual formal synthesis accompanied him until the end of his career, ranging in the use of different materials: from bronze to terracotta, polychrome ceramics and marble. In the 1940s he won the competition for the bronze doors of St Peter’s, but was unable to complete them because he died in 1952.