17 maggio 2023
by Laura Antonini

King Charles III behind the (linen) screen


Since 1873, Bergamo – Italian Capital of Culture 2023 – has been home to the Linificio e Canapificio Nazionale in Villa d'Almè (now part of the Marzotto Group), producer of the finest quality sustainable linen and hemp yarns. Just a few weeks ago, they were chosen by John Spencer (Textile) Ltd. to make the Anointing Screen used for the coronation of King Charles III. 

This scenic element of great significance concealed from the eyes of the world the most sacred moment of the ceremony, the anointing, whereby the Dean of Westminster poured the holy oil from the cruet to the spoon with which the Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the hands, chest and head of the sovereign, a moment considered historically to be the time when God and the king are united. It was donated to Charles III by the ancient and modern trade guilds of London and has three sides: the central side features a tree with 56 leaves, one for each member of the Commonwealth, with the king's cypher placed at the base of the tree, while the design of the two lesser sides is inspired by the floor of Westminster Abbey.

The story of this incredible Italian business goes way back and today it continues to remain faithful to its origins whilst still successfully keeping up with the times. The company holds the mark of excellence Masters of Linen® and is in fact one of Europe's oldest businesses. In late 2021, it became a Benefit Corporation, that is, a company that in addition to profit pursues purposes of common, environmental and social benefit, and is at the forefront of promoting the use of natural fibers such as flax and hemp even in non-textile sectors such as the automotive industry and sustainable food packaging. A story of unconditional love of linen as the fiber of the future, expressed through a profound respect for tradition. This year, the National Linen and Hemp Mill is getting ready to blow out the candles on its milestone anniversary.

Celebrations will feature ‘De Filo’, opening on May 20: an exhibition of contemporary textile art featuring the works of major international textile and contemporary artists.

The title ‘De Filo’ holds multiple meanings in Italian: de-filarsi to hide or to stand out virtuously, to roll up neatly or unroll freely, to spin in order to tighten or to expand, to weave in order to protect or to connect, “DE” interpreted in the sense of the Latin preposition “concerning” but also “on the” thread.

The exhibition will thus be a moment of celebration of the company but also an opportunity to visit the incredible production spaces: an authentic journey to discover the culture of linen and the greatness of Bergamo's textile industry, in the year in which the city is joint Italian Capital of Culture with Brescia. It is also a tribute to the Italian textile industry and its possible sustainable visions, illustrated through contemporary art interpretations that stimulate new reflections on humanity, relationships, nature and industry.

The exhibition features twenty artists with site-specific works by Kaori Miyayama, Matteo Berra and street artist Moneyless. The selected works include pieces by: Matthew Attard, Daniela Frongia, Eva and Franco Mattes, Federica Patera and Andrea Sbra Perego, Mimmo Totaro.

Indeed, the goal is to convey messages related to the Linen Mill: its 150-year history first and foremost but also its locations, products, technologies, and sustainable innovations. From yarn for linen and hemp to actions to protect the seabed (in collaboration with Marevivo); from natural mesh for food packaging to compensation initiatives to protect biodiversity.

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