Born in Quinzano d’Oglio in 1879, Bardetti attended the Scuola Comunale di Disegno per Arti e Mestieri in Brescia and devoted himself to sculpture with the creation of Matter, a colossal work that has now been lost. In Rome – where he moved in the first decade of the 20th century – he attended the Scuola libera del Nudo at the Academy of Fine Arts and from 1908 he started to work in Angelo Zanelli’s workshop – a fellow countryman. Between 1910 and 1911 he worked on the execution and installation of the large plaster high-reliefs that form the frieze of the sub-basement of the Victor Emmanuel II equestrian statue at the Vittoriano – the most prestigious building site in Italy. It was on that very building site that Bardetti met Gabriele D’Annunzio in 1910, who began to support him financially and then commissioned some works for the Vittoriale. In 1915 he made his debut at the Roman Secession with the work (now lost) Motherly Love. He married Anna Sacerdoti in 1918 and opened a studio in Via Margutta, at no. 22 (in 1927) and then at no. 33 (in 1931 and 1935).
In Rome, he developed an early interest in animal sculpture: “In 1912,” Piero Scarpa wrote, “when he still didn’t have a shelter to work in, he became a regular visitor to the zoological garden. The sculptures of animals that show excellent qualities of interpretation of form and character, belong precisely to that period. The most outstanding are his Barbary macaques, gorillas and chimpanzees. He studied such animals in Brescia, when he attended the local agricultural school for artistic purposes. Bardetti managed to complete a few of these, more or less large, statues and was able to find the financial support – albeit very modest – that he needed to make progress’ (Scarpa 1924). In 1921, the artist exhibited a bronze Chimpanzee of “high decorative value” (Lancellotti 1921, p. 57) at the First Roman Biennale, which was followed by the Chimpanzee presented in 1927 at the Rassegna degli Amatori e Cultori – works that recall the beautiful Pair of Monkeys exhibited here and the Ape he donated to D’Annunzio in 1925 (which was placed in a niche in the Cheli Room at the Vittoriale). Ape arrived at Dannunzio’s sumptuous residence in the same case as the bronze statue of a praying Saint Francis (Frate Sole or Hymn to the Sun) and that was a proof of his skill as an animalier sculptor. For D’Annunzio he also executed a small Saint Francis (1927-28) that was placed in the gardens of the Priory and removed after 1929, when the Vate had it welded onto one of his one thousand metal elephants and placed it in the Relics Room first, and later in the War Museum in Schifamondo. D’Annunzio also purchased nine bronze bas-reliefs of the head of St. Francis in profile, as a gift for his guests. The relief – designed in 1922 – was chosen by the artist to decorate his own tomb in the Verano cemetery and, like Monkeys, it was also reproduced in majolica. Bronze reliefs and plaques, such as the unpublished Pig exhibited here, dominated his production in 1928, year in which he presented a group of them at the Esposizione degli Amatori e Cultori. Bardetti died in Rome in 1972.