I have wanted to write a blog about Bergamot in Northern Italy since this awful virus has hit us. This beautiful medieval town was hit harder than anywhere else in the world and previously I had only sunny memories of days spent watching some of the world’s finest decorative painters at work. My late husband was a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers, one of London’s oldest Livery Companies, and with others was a patron of the International Art Salon which held a gathering in a different country every two years. We have been privileged to watch these artists and craftsmen working alongside one another, sharing their expertise and finally working on a joint masterpiece which might then be donated to the town where the Salon was being held. I have so many memories of Bruges, San Antonio Texas, Norway, Sweden, Versailles and the most memorable for me......Bergamot.
The Salon was held in the oldest part of the city, high on the hill ascended by a funicular railway. Everyday, the artists would assemble in the cloisters of an ancient building and demonstrate their skills in marbling, graining, trompe d’oeil, stone carving and work on the communal project, a huge mural. Across town in another ancient building others painted, worked with leather, fabric, sharing brushes, knives, cleaning rags and jokes as well. I met a lovely Swedish artist and would have loved to own her painting of a birch tree with a female form worked into the silver bark. She explained in Sweden in the Spring women would worship the birch tree and pray for fertility. I see the birch trees where I live are bursting into promising green leaf, and I feel hope for the world. It was Springtime when I visited Bergamo. Fond memories of communal lunches when all downed tools and met by the cloisters looking over the fabulous views of that beautiful part of Northern Italy. I have never known such a convivial atmosphere, great food and copious amounts of local vino.
My outstanding memory was the final night’s masked ball held in the ancient family palace of Lucretia who organised the Salon in 2009. That year the theme of the Salon was Masks. I had bought my mask in the Lanes in Brighton, had the long frock and a fringed silk shawl my parents had bought in Russia in the Sixties (another story there) and I had to search all afternoon yesterday to find the photos of my scarf. It was a big problem downloading the images but success at last. Today I looked for the Russian scarf. Yes, I found it but, horrors!.....it is not the shawl in the photo. Now, I remember I borrowed that one from one of the artists. I still have my decorative mask, which I am clutching in the photo but it’s not much good at combatting Covid 19. I will show my Russian scarf, despite my swapping it for another on the night.
As we left the masked ball, the night was balmy and the pipistrelli flew over our heads. How strange they would cause such worldwide havoc from a Chinese market some ten years later because of Man’s disrespect of Nature.
I wish Bergamo well.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!