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World-Renowned Sculptor Visits His Columbus Sculpture in Scotch Plains

Mindy Scarlett

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 • 9:31pm

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – The f15-year anniversary of the Columbus Day sculpture in front of City Hall in Scotch Plains is fast approaching and the township was honored on Wednesday with a visit from the sculptor of the piece, Gheorghi Filin, who stopped in on his first trip to the U.S.

Mayor Kevin Glover was on hand to present Filin with a special plaque from the town of Scotch Plains and to tell the story of how the town held a competition through the local schools and this was the winning design. 

“It is Christopher Columbus’ hand-holding an orange. When he went looking for the funding for his trip to the other side of the world he handed Queen Isabella an orange, to signify that the world was round.  On top of that orange are three metal sails, depicting his three ships, the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria,” said Glover.

Tom Donatelli, president of Easter Marble and Granite, was also on hand for the presentation of the plaque.  

“My father went to Italy and told his agent he needed the sculpture done very economically,” said Donatelli.   “Filin is a world renowned sculptor who has pieces all over the world and he is an amazing artist.  This is his first trip to the United States and his first time seeing his sculpture here in Scotch Plains-if he had realized how significant this was going to be he would have put a more modern base on it.”

“In 1998, there was a story in the Scotch Plains Times about the sculpture and my father mailed it to Italy to his agent there, who took it over to show Filin in his studio.  His wife, who reads a bit of English, was reading it and saw my father’s name of Joseph Donatelli and his wife’s maiden  name was Donatelli.  And, when we dedicated this sculpture I meet my wife at the Italian club, and she was visiting from Brazil and she comes from the Donatelli family that immigrated to South America.  She had first cousins here in Scotch Plains.  Turns out, that her father’s mother was a Donatelli as well,” said Tom Donatelli.

“So, after 500 years Christopher Columbus is still bringing people from three different parts of the world together,” said  Donatelli.

“One of the unique things about this sculpture is that the marble came from the same quarry as Michelangelo used for many of his famous sculptures such as David.   It is a very high quality carving marble and Filin was very impressed with how good it looks fifteen years after he carved it,” said Donatelli.  “I come every few years and clean it, just to be sure.”

Glover pointed out that there were hundreds of Italians from the same area in Italy and settled in Scotch Plains, with names like Donatelli, DiFrancisco and Mortarula.  “We have many deep ties to Italy and its culture and we are proud to be able to showcase this particular sculpture.”

On Oct. 12 the Italian Club will be hosting a special Columbus Day event to mark the 15th anniversary of the sculpture.

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