Born in Brescia, Italy, Antonet was the son of a famous family of Italian clowns. He followed in Footit’s tradition as an “authoritarian” whiteface clown. George Speaight credits Antonet with introducing the loose spangled dress, with calf-length trousers that became associated with the European whiteface clown. Antonet first became famous working straight to Little Walter. The duo created clown entrees called The Clarinet, The Bullfight, The Nightingale, and a Hamlet parody that became standard circus clown acts. According to John Towsen,
“Antonet was a superb straight man who could bring out the most in his partner and help build the plot to its highest potential of hilarity. In the process, more and more of the comic effects seemed to be attributable to the auguste. It was hardly a coincidence that three of Antonet’s partners – Little Walter, Grock and Beby, were considered to be among the greatest augustes ever.”
In 1913, Antonet teamed with Beby. According to Towsen,
“it was while working with Beby that Antonet truly refined the concept of the clown entree, applying high standards of dramatic construction to clowning. There was a classical purity to their style, based on careful exposition, well-conceived plots, intriguing complications, and a strong denouement.”
Antonet made a tremendous contribution to the history of clowning through his instruction of Grock, his creation of routines that became standards, and his elevation of the circus clown entree to high theatrical art.
Antonet was inducted into the 1999 Clown Hall of Fame.