|Joseph Bonomi the Younger by Matilda Sharpe|
I am going through fard at a rate of knots this year and my fanning hand is starting to get tired with all these jaunts to exotic locales, yet I find myself packing my portmanteau once again in preparation for today's expedition to Egypt in the company of Joseph Bonomi the Younger.
As the son of successful architect Joseph Bonomi the Elder and brother of another architect, Ignatius, it was perhaps a natural assumption that Bonami would also follow this career path but instead he showed an early interest and talent for sculpture. This interest burgeoned as he grew older and the young man attended the Royal Academy before travelling to Rome to study under Antonio Canova. When Canova died before Bonomi arrived the would-be pupil faced his disappointment with stoicism and remained in Rome to continue his studies under his own steam. However, it was not long before mounting debts forced Bonomi to seek another opportunity and he enthusiastically accepted an offer from antiquarian Robert Hay to accompany him to Egypt. The trip was to prove a fateful one for Bonomi, who found himself energised and inspired by his newly-discovered love of Egyptian history and culture.
|An Egyptian Chariot by Joseph Bonomi|
The expedition left in 1824 and for two years Bonomi laboured over hugely detailed sketches and casts of the antiquities the group encountered, sharing some with Hay and keeping others for his portfolio. Although Bonomi had initially been happy to accept a token salary, as his own reputation grew he approached Hay to discuss the matter of remuneration; it was to prove an unhappy meeting. As Bonomi resented his low salary, Hay in turn disapproved of the artist using the trip to forward his own career and the two men's relationship grew increasingly fractured. His patience exhausted, Bonomi resigned his position in 1826, remaining in Cairo to take on lucrative illustration work for private clients.
By now respected in his own right, Bonomi met Hay again in 1832. Rediscovering their shared love of Egyptology, the two men decided to put their differences behind them and travel Egypt once more, with Bonomi's salary now more befitting a man of his reputation. Hay left the country in 1834 and Bonomi undertook tours of the east himself, though he found nothing to excite him as Egyptology did.
Bonomi finally returned to his homeland in 1844 and followed the family tradition, doing some architectural work inspired by his years in Egypt. He married Jessie Martin, with whom he had 12 children, and immersed himself once more in Egyptology, finding himself in demand as an illustrator and archivist of collections of Egyptian artefacts including those at the British Museum and the Crystal Palace.
The man who had travelled so far from home was finally settled, living a long and happy life and indulging his love for design, sculpture and Egyptology. From the expedition with Hay that was taken simply to clear his debts, Bonomi found the passion that would shape his life and make his name, immersed in Egypt and the antiquities that fascinated him to his dying day.