Ulderico Fabbri was born in Monestirolo, near Ferrara, in 1897. Having demonstrated considerable artistic talent, he was introduced as an apprentice in the workshop of the marble craftsman Boldrin in Ferrara and at the same time attended evening classes at the Dosso Dossi School, where he was a pupil of Giovanni Battista Longanesi.
At the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the army and left for the First World War. His hands were seriously wounded in Macedonia and he risked not being able to dedicate himself to sculpture. But determined to recover the use of his limbs, he attended the Casa di rieducazione dei Mutilati in Rome and also the Accademia di Belle Arti, where, under the guidance of Attilio Selva and Ettore Ferrari, he finally succeeded in devoting himself to sculpture.
At the beginning of the 1920s, Ulderico Fabbri’s language was still influenced by Art Nouveau linearism, but at the same time it was already assuming the solid balance that came from the desire for a return to order.
Sculpture: between Donatello’s Quattrocento and the vibrant surfaces of the scapigliata style
In 1926, he worked on the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) for the Gran Claustro (Great Cloister) in the Certosa cemetery in Ferrara. In this work, the sculptor drew on Donatello’s stiacciato model and created a particularly intense and sorrowful narrative in which the material became alive and vibrant. In the continuous dialogue between the re-proposition of Renaissance memories and references to the animated surfaces of Scapigliata and Impressionist sculpture, Ulderico Fabbri created a highly personal production full of pathos, as can be seen especially in his works of the 1930s.
In 1931 he painted Child on the Telephone, a curious subject that recalls Mannerist Ferrara iconography, but instead of a shell, a telephone receiver stands out near the ear. The child’s mottled surface makes the sculpture energetic and sparkling, like the Genius of Music on the façade of Ferrara’s Auditorium. In 1933 he exhibited a marble Figure at the Florence Trade Union Exhibition, while in 1935 he was at the Second Rome Quadrennial with the terracotta dedicated to Italo Balbo. The following year, he participated in the Venice Biennale with San Giovannino.
In the period that followed, the sculptor was mainly involved in demonstrations for war amputees and in sacred subjects commissioned by the ecclesiastical environment in Ferrara. In fact, he took part in the Milanese War Mute Artists Exhibition in 1937, where he presented nine works, including Invocation, Mansuetude, Shepherd and Balilla, sculptures that once again show a careful study of Donatello’s modelling.
After the war, he continued to work in the religious sphere: in 1955 he created the Funeral Monument of Archbishop Bovelli for an altar in Ferrara Cathedral. The fifteenth-century sculpture and solid, sober manner of Jacopo della Quercia continued to distinguish Ulderico Fabbri’s sculpture throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as can be seen in the Rescue and Narciso groups. He died in Ferrara in 1970.