- c. 1824-1870s (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
3 atlas size boxes and 1 folder
Name of creator
British sculptor, draughtsman, and traveller of Italian origin; he was born in London, 9 Oct. 1796, son of Joseph Bonomi the elder (1739-1808), architect, and Rosa Florini; he studied at the RA schools under Nollekens and won the silver medal for drawing in the antique style; he continued his studies in Rome, 1823; he went from there to Egypt to assist Robert Hay in 1824, remaining there for no less than 9 years although estranged from Hay 1826-32; he also worked with Burton, Lane, Wilkinson, and Rosellini; in 1828 he assisted Burton with his Excerpta Hieroglyphica, and in 1829 ascended the Nile as far as Dongola, and in 1831 he accompanied Linant Bey in his expedition to the Gold Mines; he rejoined Hay at Qurna in Aug. 1832; he went with Arundale and Catherwood in a journey through Sinai, Palestine, and Syria, 1833-4; he was much used by Wilkinson and Birch for the production of their works because of his knowledge and excellence as a draughtsman; he returned to Rome to study the obelisks, 1838, and worked at the British Museum, 1839; at this time he prepared the illustrations for Wilkinson's Manners and Customs; he supervised the making of Hay's plaster casts of Egyptian sculpture and their entry into the British Museum; he was partly responsible for the design and decoration of the Egyptian-style Marshall's Mill at Holbeck, Leeds in 1842; he next went to Egypt with Lepsius's expedition, 1842-4; he returned to England and married Jessie daughterof the painter John Martin, 1845; Bonomi set up the Egyptian court at the Crystal Palace, 1853, and made the first hieroglyphic font in England for Birch's Dictionary, pub. 1867; he catalogued and illustrated many Egyptian collections, and lithographed the sarcophagus of Sety I and other monuments; he was appointed Curator of Sir John Soane's Museum, 1861, and was still in office at his death; he was instrumental in the sale of much of Hay's collection to the British Museum in 1868 and Hay's MSS to the Museum (now in the British Library) in 1875. His principal publications were, Gallery of antiquities selected from the British Museum, by F. Arundale and J. Bonomi, with descriptions by S. Birch, 1842-1843; Catalogue of the Egyptian antiquities in the Museum of Hartwell House, 1858; Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia ..., 1862. He died in Wimbledon, 3 March 1878 and is buried in Brompton cemetery beneath a slate Anubis.
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: in the possession of the Bonomi family for several generations until deposit in the Griffith Institute Archive.
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: created for the Griffith Institute in the 1940s.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: donated in 1997 by Mrs Vivien Betti, descendant of Joseph Bonomi.
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: made with permission of Mrs de Cosson, the owner of the original diary in the 1940s when this copy was created.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: 52 handmade ‘portfolios’ containing pencil and pastel drawings, watercolours, tracings and commercial prints, almost certainly arranged by Bonomi, some later rearrangement was done by Bonomi's descendants [Bonomi MSS 1-52].
2) Typescript of diary: carbon-copy(?) typescript of extracts from Joseph Bonomi’s diary, entries for periods in Egypt dating between 25th March 1829 to 26th May 1834 [Bonomi MSS 53].
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: within the portfolios the material has been kept as received; the portfolios have been categorised into four groups (although some specific items are actually misplaced, they have not been moved but kept in their original portfolios):
- Egypt [Bonomi MSS 1-25]
- Europe et al. [Bonomi MSS 26-28]
- the Near East [Bonomi MSS 29-32]
- Classical designs [Bonomi MSS 33-52]
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: kept as received.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: property of the Griffith Institute. No restrictions.
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: property of the de Cosson family in the 1940s. Access to the typescript is provided for study purposes only. Permission to quote from or requests to reproduce from the diary must be acquired from the de Cosson family. The Griffith Institute does not know if the original diary is still in the possession of the de Cosson family and has no current contact information.
Conditions governing reproduction
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: copyright Griffith Institute, University of Oxford.
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: copyright of the de Cosson family.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings:
- list and notes for the Egyptian portfolios by Dr Rosalind L. B. Moss (some of the references in the list are quoted in the published Topographical Bibliography volumes as well as being recorded in this catalogue as 'PM reference'). In the period of time between Dr Moss consulting the material and its accession in the Archive, distribution of some of the material has been changed and relocated within other folders by the former owner. There were also periodic exchanges of material between the respective collections in the possession of Bonomi's other descendants, hence some of the items seen and recorded by Dr Moss are no longer present [info Mrs Vivien Betti in 1997],
- preliminary catalogue for the Egyptian, European et al. and Near Eastern portfolios [Bonomi MSS 1-32],
- final catalogue of the entire collection in progress on this website.
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: none.
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: these are originals.
2) The original Bonomi diary was in the possession of the de Cosson family in the 1940s.
Existence and location of copies
1) Bonomi drawings and paintings: none.
2) Typescript of extracts from Bonomi’s diary: not known.
Related units of description
- Preliminary note on the Griffith Institute website: 'Joseph Bonomi (1796-1878). Drawings and watercolours in the Archive of the Griffith Institute' (http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4bonomi.html).
- The dimensions given for each item are maximum width per maximum height.
- Antonia Burgess-Freshwater created the preliminary catalogue for the Egyptian, European et al. and Near Eastern portfolios [Bonomi MSS 1-32].
- Elsie McLaughlin created the final catalogue for part of the Egyptian portfolios [Bonomi MSS 1-5] on this website, under the supervision of Francisco Bosch-Puche.
- Emily Poncia and Aspen Warren (placement programme for BA students in Art History 2021-2022) created the final catalogue for part of the Egyptian portfolios [Bonomi MSS 6-7] on this website, under the supervision of Francisco Bosch-Puche.
- Ella Thomas (placement programme for BA students in Art History 2018-2019) created the final catalogue for part of the Egyptian portfolios [Bonomi MSS 23-25], the European et al. portfolios [Bonomi MSS 26-28] and the Near Eastern portfolios [Bonomi MSS 29-32] on this website, under the supervision of Francisco Bosch-Puche.
- Beatrice Law and Mia Parnall (placement programme for BA students in Art History 2017-2018) created the final catalogue for the Classical portfolios [Bonomi MSS 33-52] on this website, under the supervision of Francisco Bosch-Puche.
- If you spot any mistakes or can improve on the cataloguing, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Description control area
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