Painting of Joseph Bonomi the Elder by John Francis Rigaud.

On this day in history: Giuseppe Bonomi, architect, was born

Culture History of Italy News

On this day, 17th January 1739, Giuseppe Bonomi, the visionary Italian architect, was born. Renowned for his exceptional architectural prowess, Bonomi played a crucial role in shaping the landscape of England during the 18th century.

Giuseppe Bonomi’s journey into the world of architecture began in his hometown of Rome, Italy. Born into a family with a deep appreciation for art and culture, Bonomi was exposed to the rich architectural heritage of the city from an early age.

His innate talent and passion for design led him to pursue formal education in architecture, studying under the guidance of distinguished mentors in Rome. His son said he was a pupil of architect Antonio Asprucci, while other sources suggest his teacher was Girolamo Teodoli who designed the Teatro Argentina.

In the mid-18th century, Giuseppe Bonomi made the decision to embark on a journey to England. His arrival in the country marked the beginning of a prolific career that would leave an indelible mark on English architecture.

The cultural exchange between Italy and England during this period facilitated Bonomi’s integration into the architectural circles of his new homeland.

English stately homes and chapels

Drawing of Dale Park by J P Neale, owned by the British Museum

Giuseppe Bonomi’s architectural signature can be found in the grandeur of several stately homes across England. Among these are Lambton Castle in County Durham, Barrells Hall in Warwickshire, Longford Hall in Shropshire and Laverstoke House in Hampshire.

He also designed the saloon the in grand house of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in Portman Square in London, sadly destroyed during the Blitz in the Second World War.

Another gem in Bonomi’s portfolio is St James’ Church in the grounds of Packington Hall. The church was built in 1789 to a Bonomi design for the Earl of Aylesford as a private family chapel. The red brick church, in neo-classical style, has an unusual square plan with four corner turrets topped with domes and finials.

Plans for the mausoleum and chapel at Blickling Park

The Blickling Park mausoleum is a Grade II* listed building in the grounds of Blickling Hall, Norfolk, England. Commissioned in 1793 by Lady Caroline Suffield, the daughter of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, it serves as a tomb for her father and his two wives.

Legacy of Innovation

A harmonious blend of classical principles and innovative design elements characterised Bonomi’s approach to architecture. His work reflected the changing tastes of the 18th century while maintaining a deep respect for the classical tradition.

The architect’s ability to infuse his designs with a sense of grandeur and functionality set him apart as a master of his craft. For example, he would add porticoes deep enough to provide shelter for carriages.

Bonomi’s fame was so great Jane Austen mentioned him in her novel Sense and Sensibility. In it, a dandy, Robert Ferrars, is pontificating about the newly fashionable cottage style residence (as opposed to the rather grander designs of Bonomi):

‘I advise everyone who is going to build, to build a cottage. My friend Lord Courtland came to me the other day on purpose to ask my advice, and laid before me three different plans of Bonomi’s. I was to decide on the best of them. “My dear Courtland”, said I, immediately throwing them all in the fire, “do not adopt either of them, but by all means build a cottage”. And that I fancy, will be the end of it.’

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Giuseppe Bonomi’s influence on English architecture extended beyond the structures he designed. His collaboration with prominent figures of the time, including the renowned landscape architect Capability Brown, further enriched the architectural and cultural tapestry of England.

Bonomi died in 1808 and was buried in Marylebone cemetery.

Leave a Reply