By Livia Lupi
Architect and interior designer Giuseppe Bonomi was born in Rome on 19 January 1739. He was educated at the Collegio Romano and studied architecture with Antonio Asprucci and Marchese Teodoli. In Rome he met Scottish architect James Adam, who was on his Grand Tour, and from 1763 Bonomi measured antique buildings and produced architectural drawings in Rome for the Adam brothers. In 1767 the brothers invited Bonomi to join their London office as one of the skilled Italian draughtsmen the Adams relied upon for their accomplished architectural drawings. Bonomi thus moved to England, which was to become his new home in spite of a few brief spells back in Italy.
A major contribution of Bonomi’s to interior design were his internal perspective drawings, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1783 and helped to popularize the genre in England. This kind of drawing was later adopted by Sir John Soane and eventually by many leading architects and interior designers of the nineteenth century. Renowned painter Sir Joshua Reynolds thought very highly of Bonomi, and played a decisive role in an election that made Bonomi an associate of the Royal Academy. However, he could not sway the rest of the jury when Bonomi attempted to gain full membership.
Bonomi also followed the practical realization of his projects, such as Packington Hall and church in Warwickshire, owned by amateur architect the Fourth Earl of Aylesford. The Hall included the Pompeian Gallery, the largest and one of the earliest Pompeian schemes executed in England.
Four years after he became honorary architect to St Peter’s in Rome, Bonomi died in London on 9 March 1808.
Reference: Christopher Webster, “Bonomi, Joseph,” Encyclopaedia of Interior Design
Design for Great Room for Mrs Montagu, Portman Square, London, late 1780s.
Church at Packington, late 1780s.
Packington Hall, late 1780s.
Pyramidal mausoleum at Blickling Park, Norfolk, in memory of John, second Earl of Buckinghamshire, 1793.