(Fidelio) Bruni was born in Milan, Italy, into the family of Antonio
Bruni (1767-1825), painter and sculptor. In 1807 Antonio Bruni, taking
all his family, moved to Russia, where he stayed and worked until his death.
In St. Petersburg the name Antonio was russified to Anton Osipovich Bruni,
you can see his self-portrait here. His son
Fidelio, russified as Feodor Antonivich, made a serious career in Russia.
Already in 1809 little Feodor was admitted to the school of the Academy
of Arts; then he studied in the Academy in the studio of professors A.
E. Yegorov and V. K. Shebuyev, and graduated in 1818. In 1820 by the invitation
of Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya, writer and patroness of arts, he went
to Italy. Death of Camilla, Sister of Horatio
brought him his first success. In this work, fulfilled in the tradition
of classicism, there are some traits of romanticism. Especially close to
romanticism were his following works
of Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya in a Costume of Tankred (1820-22),
Giving Wine to Cupid. (1828). Bruni could have chosen the new
trend of romanticism in art, but he preferred to remain on the positions
of classicism. The professional skills of the young artist were highly
appreciated and he got commissions from the Academy for copying frescos
by Raphael in the Vatican. Simultaneously
he started work on his own big painting on the subject of The Brazen
In 1836 he returned to St. Petersburg, where he and Karl Brulloff were appointed the professors of the Academy.
In 1837 Bruni executed the portrait of Alexander Pushkin in the Coffin, which was multiplied in lithographs and became widely popular. In 1838 Bruni returned to Italy to continue his work on The Brazen Dragon. The finished painting was brought to St. Petersburg in 1841. The skill of the master, who had managed to build expressive composition with multiple figured on a large canvas (565x852 cm), was evident. The picture had big success and was bought for the Hermitage. Nevertheless the painting belonged to yesterday, to the degenerating academism, which fatally determined the dying of Bruni’s big talent.
The artist’s career went on; he received big commissions for the frescos in the Isaac Cathedral (Isaakievsky Cathedral) in St. Petersburg. By 1845 he completed all 25 of the commissioned cardboards, executed several of the frescos himself, and he supervised the carrying out of all the rest frescos. In 1855 Bruni became the Rector of the Academy and gradually dropped painting. Being an ardent champion of academic principles in art he became less and less popular among the students and democratic-minded professors. In 1871 he left the Academy and his last years spent in full isolation.
Russian Historical Painting. by M. Rakova. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1979.
Paintings of the 18th-early 20th centuries from the Reserves of the Russian Museum. by K. Mikhailova and G. Smirnov. Leningrad. 1982.