BONOMI, Joseph the Elder
(b. 1739, Roma, d. 1808, London)


English architect of Italian decent, born as Giuseppe Bonomi in Rome. He was educated at the Collegio Romano and then studied architecture with Girolamo Teodoli (1677-1766). He made his early reputation in Rome before moving to London in 1767 at the invitation of Robert and James Adam (1732-1794), who employed him as a draughtsman from 1768. In his early years in England Bonomi also worked as an assistant to Thomas Leverton (1743-1824).

He became a close friend of the painter Angelica Kauffmann, whose cousin Rosa Florini he married in 1775. The next year he produced a design for a proposed sacristy for St Peter's in Rome, which may indicate that he visited his native city at around this time. In 1783 Kauffmann persuaded Bonomi to move back to Rome, where she was now living. He took his wife and children with him, and the move seems to have been intended to be permanent; however the next year the family returned to London, where Bonomi was to remain based for the rest of his life.

Bonomi's earliest known independent work dates from 1784. After this he quickly became a successful designer of country houses. In 1789, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and from then on constantly exhibited architectural drawings. Joshua Reynolds, president of the Academy, had wanted Bonomi to become a full Academician, regarding him as a suitable candidate for the vacant chair of perspective; the majority of the Academicians were, however, opposed to this suggestion, and Bonomi became an associate only, and that merely through the president's deciding vote. Reynolds resigned his presidency in protest, but was soon re-elected.

In 1804 he was appointed architect of St. Peter's at Rome, apparently as an honorary position.