He was born in Torano, near Carrara. he initially trained with his maternal uncle Pietro Marchetti, and in 1813, obtained a stipend to study in Rome. There he studied mainly in the studio of Thorvaldasen. In 1816, he sculpted an Abandoned Psyche sold to Marchesa Lenzoni of Florence.
He was prolific and worked in a chaste neoclassical style into the mid-nineteenth century, specialising in pious subjects. His most prominent commission was for the tomb of Pope Pius VIII in Rome. He completed a colossal statue of St Alfonso de Liguori for the Vatican. He sculpted a St John the Evangelist for the church of San Francesco di Paola in Naples, and of San Benedetto in the Basilica Ostiense. He made numerous busts of officials in the state and church, including Popes Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, and Pius IX. He depicted the Count Esterhazy and his daughter Karoly. He completed a bas-relief for the Monument to Alberto Mattioli, designed by Luigi Poletti, for the church of Sant'Agostino in Rimini. He sculpted a bust of Pellegrino Rossi, the ill-fated minister of Pius IX, and of Carlota of Mexico, former empress, and widow of Maximilian. He sculpted a public statue of Simon Bolivar for Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota, and a bronze statue of Ferdinand II of Naples for the city of Messina in Sicily. In Hungary, he sculpted a monument to Foth for the Karoly chapel. Among his pupils were Cardelli, Saro Zagari (Rosario Zagari), Fedele Caggiano, Ambrogio Zuffi, and Giovanni Anderlini. His son Carlo became an architect. He was buried in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli alle Terme Diocleziane.
- Iconographic encyclopaedia of the arts and sciences, Volume 3 By Johann Georg Heck, Philadelphia, 1885, page 153.
- Stefano Grandesso, Pietro Tenerani (1789-1869), Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2003, ISBN 8882156788 - ISBN 9788882156787. https://books.google.it/books/about/Pietro_Tenerani.html?id=ZbBKAQAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y
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