architect; b. January 19,1739 (at Rome) ; d. March 9, 1808.
Bonomi was Italian by birth and won considerable reputation in his own country. He was induced by the brothers Adam (Robert and James) to come to England in 1767. He was a leader in the revival of Greek architecture in England. A list of his works is given in the Arch. Pub. Soc. Dictionary
Sir William Chambers
architect ; b. 1726 (at Stockholm, Sweden) ; d. March 8, 1796.
Chambers was the son of a Yorkshire merchant residing in Sweden. He was brought up in Yorkshire, and at the age of sixteen went to China as supercargo to the Swedish East India Company. While in China he made studies of architecture, costumes, etc., which he afterward published under the title Designs for Chinese Buildings, Furniture, etc. (London, 1757). At eighteen he abandoned business for architecture, and studied in Paris and in Italy. Chambers devoted himself to the fully developed classical style of Palladio, which he never abandoned. Returning to England in 1755, he was presented by Lord Bute to the Prince of Wales, afterward George III, to whose personal attachment he owed much of his success. For Augusta, Princess Dowager of Wales, he erected the buildings of Kew Gardens, London. He illustrated this work in Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings of Kew (London, 1763, 1 vol. folio). Chambers's reputation was made largely by his Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture (London, 1759), one of the standard manuals of classic architecture. In 1771 he was made Knight of the Polar Star by the King of Sweden, and was permitted by George III to assume the title of knight in England. In 1775 Chambers was made architect of Somerset House (London). The original Somerset House was begun by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, the Protector. After Somerset was beheaded (January 22, 1552), his palace became crown property. It was rebuilt by Inigo Jones. In 1761 it was decided to reconstruct Somerset House. This work was begun by Sir William Chambers in 1776.
Sir Robert Taylor
sculptor and architect; b. 1714; d. September 27, 1788.
The son of a stone mason of London. He visited Rome, and on his return executed, among other works, two monuments in Westminster Abbey, a statue at the Bank, and the sculpture of the pediment of the Mansion House, London. He had a large practice in England, and succeeded James Stuart as surveyor of Greenwich Hospital.
With Piranesi his [Robert Adam's] friendship was to be less smooth though perhaps more rewarding while it lasted. It began with typically Italian warmth and exuberance. 'Piranesi,' he wrote on June 18, [1755,] 'who is I think the most extraordinary fellow I ever saw, is becoming immensely intimate with me and as he imagined at first that I was like the other English who had a love of antiques without knowledge, upon seeing some of my sketches and drawings was so highly delighted that he almost ran quite distracted and said I have more genius for the true noble architecture than any Englishman ever was in Italy'. Though slightly suspicious of these fulsome compliments even so cool and hard-hearted a Scot as Robert could not resist such geniality, and Piranesi soon became one of his daily companions. They would go out sketching together--Piranesi no doubt wearing his enormous 'chapeau rabattu' and his 'petite camisole de chasse très courte' which made him look 'un peu sauvage'--together with Clérisseau and Pecheux, with whom Piranesi now formed the third of Robert's three 'friends, cronies and instructors'. On July 12, for example, he went with 'Signor Piranesi and Monsieur Clérisseau to see the ancient thermae or baths of Caracalla, the ruins of which are most magnificent'. And they were 'so occupied haranguing and contriving the different uses of the different chambers, courts and halls' that Robert had no time to finish his weekly letter to Edinburgh--except to add that on the following day, being a Sunday, he would be out both morning and afternoon inspecting the 'remains of antiquity on the Appian way where we shall be very merry with Piranesi who is always brisk, always allegro'.
These jolly excursions were not to continue indefinitely however, Piranesi has meantime proposed honoring Robert with a dedication and during the long-drawn-out negotiations (involving him and a squabble with Lord Charlmont) their friendship noticeably cooled. In October, Robert wrote that although Piranesi alone among the Italian artists might be said 'to breathe the ancient air [yet he] is of such disposition as bars all instruction, his ideas in locution so ill arranged, his expression so furious and fantastic, that a Venetian hint is all that can be got from him, never anything fixed or well-digested so that a quarter of an hours makes you sick of his company'.
Nevertheless Piranesi had been an extremely stimulating companion for several months and Robert could not have failed to benefit deeply from close personal contact with so brilliantly inventive and dynamic a genius. His 'conception of the grand' must have been considerably enlarged by Piranesi's 'haranguing' among the Roman ruins, not to mention his drawings and prints of which those of the Magnificenza dei Romani were just then being issued separately. These exalted and dramatic visions provided the perfect compliment to Clérisseau's somewhat pedestrian interpretation of classical Roman architecture, as indeed Robert admitted in a letter of July 4 when he wrote that 'so amazing and ingenious fancies as he [Piranesi] has produced in the different plans of the Temples, Baths and Palaces and other buildings I never saw and are the greatest fund for inspiring and instilling invention in any lover of architecture that can be imagined. Chambers (see left), who courted Piranesi's friendship with all the assiduity of a lover, never could bring him even to do a sketch of any one thing, and told me I would never be able to get anything from him. So much is he out of his calculation that he has told me that whatsoever I want of him he will do for me with pleasure, and is just now doing two drawings for me which will be both singular and clever'.
He is sorely tempted to break loose from Clérisseau's rigid curriculum of study, confessing to James that in spite of Clérisseau's admonitions to 'forbear inventing or composing either plans or elevations' he could not restrain himself and 'must still be scrawling a plan of a temple or a bit of a front'. Moreover, he went on, Piranesi 'having seen some of these sketches was so satisfied with them and with the collection of antique things I have got casts of, that he has absolutely changed his resolution of dedicating his plan of ancient Rome to one of the Cardinals here and has dedicated it to me with the title of Friend and Architect Dilectantissimo nella Antichità!' And if, as seems likely, such drawings as those illustrated [here] date from the summer months of 1755, the impact of Piranesi's genius on Robert's mind must have had a tonic effect indeed.
They suggest that a sudden access of self-confidence had freed his hand, and his imagination as well, enabling him to draw with a greater spontaneity, directness and grasp.
This increased self-assurance is also reflected in the first of the letters he had promised to send James at regular intervals about the progress of his studies. He began by commiserating with his brother who was then (July 4) at Fort George and, Robert presumed, 'experiencing a-new the flashes, furies and madnesses of that most ridiculous of mortals, Col. Skinner'. However, by addressing the letter to the fort, where it would be seen by none of his family except James, he felt able to write 'with more freedom concerning those things that regard himself, my future views and means I am using to accomplish them'. Of these the first and most important was of course the projected 'English establishment'. He now thought that most of his former objections and reservations might be overcome provided he studied at Rome for some months longer than he had originally intended.
'When I came here and had my views confined to Scotland alone', he wrote, 'I imagined that it would be sufficient for me to enlarge my ideas, to pick up a set of new thoughts which, with some little instruction in drawing I imagined would be sufficient to make one who had seen so much carry all before him in a narrow country where the very name of a traveler acquires respect and veneration to no great geniuses. But with respect to England the affair is quite different. There you have rivals, and these not unformidable: you have people of real taste, and not a few of them. The first will do all they can to destroy real merit and the others will judge and from that condemn or approve. For this reason it is evident that unless one can appear equal if not superior to these antagonists, so as to acquire preference from the connoisseurs, all attempts to succeed, even with good interest, won't continue for any tract of time, so that after a little blaze you are sent home with little honour and less profit. These considerations made me determine to go to the bottom of things--to undo Chambers in figures, in bas-reliefs and in ornaments, which, with any tolerable degree of taste so as to apply them properly, make a building appear as different as night from day. You'll own the attempt was bold, but nevertheless I have attempted it. I am drawing hands and feet, from which I make the proper advances to full figures and from that to composing and putting any story or fancy together. My progress is as yet very trivial, though Pecheux, my instructor, gives me great encouragement and assures me in three or four months I shall do infinitely better than Chambers ever did or will do. Thus you see, my dear Jamie, that obstacle is not unsurmountable. Ornaments come of themselves as I see and copy everyday and have made some progress in sketching them--whilst I find my ideas of architecture are a good deal enlarged and my principles of the grand more fixed than ever they were before. Clérisseau preaches me everyday to forbear invention or composing either plans or elevations till I have a greater fund, that is, till I have made more progress in seeing things and my head more filled with proper ornaments and my hand more able to draw to purpose what I would incline, as he very justly says that inventing indifferently and drawing so-so ornaments is to fix these in your head and to prevent your getting into the taste of better ones'.
He then issued into the account, already quoted, of how Piranesi had praised his drawings and suggested dedicating one of his engravings to him with a very flattering inscription. 'I was never so surprised as when Clérisseau told me that Piranesi had such regard for me that he was determined to dedicate his plan of Rome, as it was anciently, to me and to none else.' 'To me,' he repeated. 'in preference to all the nobility here and all English and to Mr Wood so famous for his Palmyra.' Such flattery might well have gone to his head had he not discovered that Piranesi would expect a handsome douceur. 'It will cost me some sous', he remarked testily, 'in purchasing eighty or an hundred copies of it.' But a Scotsman was not to be outdone by an Italian and Robert proposed reselling them through his London bookseller friend David Wilson. They would be the first off the press and he would see that they reached England a month or two earlier than any others. So David Wilson might, he thought, 'make something of it by adding a trifle of additional price to each copy'.
John Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962), pp. 165-70.