Tomb of James Smithson in Italy

ID: 82-3195

Creator: Prematio Studio Fotographico (Genova, Italy)

Form/Genre: Photographic print

Date: 1897

Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 21, Folder: 5

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  • Close up of memorial plaque and the monument of James Smithson in the Protestant or English cemetery on a hilltop near Genoa, Italy, overlooking the town of Sampierdarena. Smithson's remains were removed and brought to the Smithsonian in 1904. The inscription on this side of the monument reads "Sacred to the memory of James Smithson, esq., Fellow of the Royal Society, London, who died at Genoa the 26th June, 1829, aged 75 years."
  • Three copies of the memorial plaque were made in bronze and two copies were made in Carrara marble. The artist for the plaque design was William Ordway Partridge of New York City. The plaque features a carved profile of James Smithson with the inscription, "James Smithson -- FRS -- Founder of the Smithsonian Institution -- Washington. Erected by the Regents of the Institution 1896." Initially, two bronze copies were cast in 1896. One was placed at the Smithson grave site outside Genoa and one was installed in the nearby Church of the Holy Spirit.
  • The memorial plaque at the grave site was later stolen and replaced with a facsimile of Carrara marble in 1900. That plaque was brought to Washington, D.C., in 1904, when Smithson's remains were moved to the Smithsonian and remains in the Crypt Room of the Smithsonian Castle today. The bronze in the Church of the Holy Spirit was lost during World War II; the church was gutted by fire and many artifacts were lost. A replacement marble facsimile was carved by Romanelli of Florence and installed in 1963. A third bronze copy of the memorial plaque was cast and sent to Pembroke College, Oxford University, where Smithson attended school, in 1898, where it remains today.


  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Romanelli, Rafaello
  • Partridge, William Ordway 1861-1930


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


Smithson's age on the inscription is incorrect; Smithson is believed to have lived from c.1765 to 1829.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 21, Folder: 5

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,



Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Tombs
  • Smithson, James
  • Benefactors
  • Memorials
  • Smithson family
  • Death and burial
  • Smithson, James--Death and burial


Genoa (Italy)


  • Photographic print
  • Exterior

ID Number


Physical description

Color: Sepia; Size: 7 1/8w x 5.25h; Type of Image: Exterior; Medium: Photographic print

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