Stefano Bardini was born on 13 May 1836 in Pieve Santo Stefano in the Province of Arezzo, Italy. He trained as a painter at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence, and worked as a restorer and copyist before entering the art trade in the 1870s as a collector and dealer of Italian Medieval and Renaissance sculptures, paintings and applied art.
In 1881 Bardini purchased San Gregorio della Pace, a medieval church and convent on the Piazza de’ Mozzi, near the Pitti Palace, Florence, which he renovated and set up as a gallery and restoration studio. There he cultivated relationships with private collectors such as Bernard Berenson, Isabella Stewart Gardner, John Pierpont Morgan and George Donaldson and institutions such as the South Kensington Museum, of which Director of Fine Art, Thomas Armstrong, visited the gallery in 1884. Over the next 30 years, the Museum purchased numerous objects from Bardini, the largest of which was a fresco ceiling from the Casa Maffi, Cremona (428-1889). Until 1910 this object was displayed at the Bethnal Green Museum as there was not enough space for it at South Kensington; it is now on display in the Medieval and Renaissance galleries.
Between 1885 and 1918, Bardini held four public sales of works from his collection in Paris, London, and New York. Bardini died in Florence on 12 September 1922. He bequeathed his Galleria di Piazza de’ Mozzi and some of its contents to the Florence City Council and it opened as a museum the following year.
Information in the V&A Archive
MA/1/B359/1-2: Nominal file – Stefano Bardini
MA/30/130, 148, 150, 153-54, 170 & 249: Central Inventory registers
ED 84/39: Précis of the Board minutes of the Science and Art Department, 1884-1887
ED 84/40: Précis of the Board minutes of the Science and Art Department, 1888-1892
ED 84/205: Official visits abroad by keepers of the Museum with reports on foreign Museums, collections, etc, 1861-1900
Other archival sources: Museo Stefano Bardini, Florence
Selected printed works
Wainwright, Clive.‘The making of the South Kensington Museum, IV: relationships with the trade; Webb and Bardini.’ Journal of the History of Collections 14, no.1 (2002): 63-87. NAL pressmark: PP.69.E
Niemeyer Chini, Valerie. Stefano Bardini e Wilhelm Bode: mercanti e connaisseur fra Ottocento e Novecento. Firenze: Polistampa, c2009. NAL pressmark: 604.AL.0181
Il Museo Bardini a Firenze. 2 vols. Milano: Electra, 1984. NAL pressmark: 505.C.1, 504.D.146
Christies. Objets d' art, antiques du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance, 27 May 1902. London, 1902. NAL pressmark: 23.CC
'Bardini, Stefano'. Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 October 2010
To locate material in the National Art Library, please search the Library Catalogue.