Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bonomi, Joseph (1796-1878)

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1313246Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 05 — Bonomi, Joseph (1796-1878)1886Stanley Lane-Poole

BONOMI, JOSEPH, the younger (1796–1878), sculptor and draughtsman, was born at Rome on 9 Oct. 1796. His father was Joseph Bonomi the elder [q. v.], and Angelica Kauffman and Maria Cosway were sponsors at his baptism. The elder Bonomi, who had first came to England in 1767, settled here permanently soon after his son's birth, and Joseph became at an early age a student at the Royal Academy, where he won the silver medal for the best drawing from the antique, and also distinguished himself in sculpture, the study of which he afterwards pursued under Nollekens. In 1823 he revisited Rome, and in the following year accompanied Robert Hay to Egypt, the land with which his name was to be most enduringly linked. He there remained eight years, studying and drawing the monunents, in the company of Hay, Buxton, Lune, and Wilkinson. His cheerful, indomitable spirit, and easy bonhomie made him a general favourite, and during this period he acquired that remarkable skill in hieroglyphic draughtsmanship which has been excelled by Wilkinson alone. In 1833 he joined Arundale and Catherwood in their journey in Sinai and the Holy Land, where they were the first to visit the Mosque of Omar, so called, and made the detailed drawings upon which Fergusson founded his famous theory. On his return to England, his true eye and delicate pencil were immediately secured for the illustration of the Egyptological works of Wilkinson and Birch; but in 1842 his services were again in demand for the expedition which the Prussian government were sending to Egypt under Lepsius, and his duties in connection with this exploration kept Bonomi two years in the country. On his return from this second visit to Egypt, he made a series of drawings from which Warren and Fahey painted their panorama of the Nile, which enjoyed a considerable measure of success in London and some of the large towns. In 1853 Bonomi lent his valuable assistance to Owen Jones in the arrangement. of the Egyptian Court at the Crystal Palace, and in 1861 he was appropriately appointed curator of Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Here he remained until his death, 3 March 1878. Bonomi was no scholar, but as a hieroglyphic draughtsman he was admirable. His work may be found scattered through all the principal Egyptologists’ publications of his time. He furnished the Egyptian illustrations for numerous papers in the ‘Transactions of the Syro-Egyptian Society,’ Birch’s ‘Gallery of Antiquities selected from the British Museum,’ Hay's collection, the Hartwell House Museum, and many other works of importance. With Samuel Sharpe, especially, Bouomi constantly collaborated, illustrating most: of that writer’s books; in many cases it would be more correct to say that Sharpe supplied the text that explained Bonomi‘s drawings. The large work on ‘Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia’ is illustrated by Bonomi, and he also published a popular work on ‘Nineveh,’ regarded chiefly from the artistic and the scriptural points of view, which ran through several editions, and was reprinted in 1869. He invented a machine for measuring the proportions of the human body, and brought out an edition of Vitruvius Pollio, with a treatise on the proportions of the human figure. He was a useful contributor to the ‘Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature’ and other learned periodicals. His papers on obelisks and on other Egyptian moniunents were especially valuable.

[Times, 5 March 1878 ; Anthanæum No. 2628 (March 1878); information from E. W. Lane, R. S. Poole, and others.]

S. L. P.