Something Better Than World Acclaim
Years after I became a well-known sculptor in Europe, a fellow artist told me accusingly: “You have let art down!” Before relating why he made that accusation, let me explain how I came to be a sculptor.
IN THE village of Aurisina, where I was born, most of the men worked in an ancient stone quarry. Aurisina is located in northern Italy near Trieste and close to the former Yugoslavia. When I was 15, I too began working in the village quarry. That was in 1939, the year World War II began. Working with stone made me want to become a famous sculptor. I also wanted never to die. Both of these desires seemed unreachable.
When the war ended in 1945, I moved to live with my sister in Rome. There, I hoped to enroll in the academy of art. How thrilled I was when my wish came true and I was accepted for three years of studies! My studies were financed with the help of various charity organizations.
I also sought to satisfy my spiritual hunger by attending religious services, including those of the Salvation Army and the Waldenses. I even took courses at a Jesuit university, and once I attended a three-day seminar taught by a bishop. During this course we were not permitted to converse with one another, but we devoted ourselves to prayer, meditation, confession, and the bishop’s presentations.
Afterward, I realized that my faith had not been strengthened. “Why,” I asked the bishop, “had I not developed a strong faith?”
“Faith is God’s gift,” the bishop answered, “and he gives it to whom he wants.” His answer so disappointed me that I stopped searching for God and began to devote myself exclusively to my art studies.
Winning International Acclaim
After finishing school in Rome in 1948, I received a one-year scholarship to study at the academy of art in Vienna, Austria. I graduated from there the following year and accepted a one-year scholarship to pursue my studies in Ljubljana, Slovenia (formerly part of Yugoslavia). My goal then was to move to Paris, France, the center of the fine arts.
However, in 1951, I was given the opportunity to work in Stockholm, Sweden. I moved there with the intention of saving up funds to help me pursue an art career in Paris. But then I met Micky, and we were married in 1952 and made our home in Stockholm. I got a job in a little workshop where I made sculptures of stone, marble, and granite. Some of these are exhibited at the Millesgarden, a park and museum in the town of Lidingö, near Stockholm.
I had learned an old method of bronze foundry in Rome—the lost-wax method—and I taught bronze foundry at the Art Vocational Training School and at the Academy of Art in Stockholm. Later, I was given access to a bronze foundry at the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm. There, often in front of audiences, I would create sculptures in bronze or lead. I also was hired to restore antique sculptures belonging to the then king of Sweden, Gustav VI. These are on display at the Royal Palace as well as at the castle of Drottningholm in Stockholm.
Between 1954 and 1960, my work received praise in the press and from art critics. Many of my sculptures were exhibited in major cities of Europe, including Stockholm, Rome, Ljubljana, Vienna, Zagreb, and Belgrade. In Belgrade, Marshal Tito bought some of my sculptures for his private collection. I am represented at the Modern Gallery in Rome by a large female torso in granite, and my art is on display at the Albertina Museum in Vienna. The Modern Museum in Stockholm has one of my bronze and lead sculptures, and the Modern Gallery in Ljubljana has a sculpture in bronze.
Interest Again in Religion
After we were married a few years, Micky noticed my reawakening interest in religion. I kept wondering, ‘Where is the faith for which the first Christians were willing to die?’ Again I began attending religious services, such as those of Pentecostals and Adventists. I even examined Islam and Buddhism.
In 1959, before attending an art exhibition in Milan, Italy, I visited my village of Aurisina for a few days. Villagers told me about a man who they said knew a lot about the Bible. He was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I had opportunity to speak with him, he showed me things in the Bible that I had never seen before. I learned that man is a soul—he does not have a soul separate from his body—and that the human soul is mortal, not immortal as other religions taught.—Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4.
Further, the man showed me that God’s purpose when he created Adam and Eve was, not that they should die, but that they should live forever in happiness on earth. The first human couple died because they were disobedient. (Genesis 1:28; 2:15-17) I learned that by giving his Son as a ransom, God made provision for humans to enjoy the prospect of everlasting life, which had been lost by Adam’s disobedience. (John 3:16) It brought me great joy to learn these things.—Psalm 37:29; Revelation 21:3, 4.
A Turning Point
Shortly thereafter, I returned to Sweden, and Micky and I tried to locate Jehovah’s Witnesses. But we could not find an address for them. A few days later, however, our doorbell rang, and there they were at our door! I began reading the literature they left with me, and soon I was convinced that it contained the truth. Yet, I wanted to confirm my opinion by talking with an old friend, a Catholic archbishop, with whom I had become acquainted during my studies in Rome during the latter part of the 1940’s. So, in January 1961, I went to see him.
My friend was then in charge of all Catholic missionary activity worldwide. What a surprise awaited me! I was amazed to learn that the archbishop lacked even elementary Bible knowledge. When we spoke about what happens at death, he said: “What we believe now may turn out to be completely the opposite.” And when we discussed the apostle Peter’s reference to the Bible promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” he was not sure what was meant by this promise.—2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17-25.
Upon my return to Stockholm, I began to study the Bible regularly with one of the Witnesses with whom my wife and I had become acquainted. I was delighted to see Micky’s increasing interest in the study. Eventually, on February 26, 1961, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism, and Micky was baptized the following year.
Making Adjustments in Employment
We had a baby girl in 1956 and a little boy in 1961. Since we now had a family to support, I was in need of steady employment. I was delighted to receive an invitation to build a large monument in the village where I was born. It was to be in memory of partisans who died in World War II. The monument would have been a lucrative project for me. But after considering various factors—including the fact that for months I would be away from my family and the Christian congregation and that I would be dwelling in a land where Communism was thriving and where it would not be easy to pursue spiritual interests—I turned down the offer.
Another job created a problem of conscience for me. I was asked to make a large ornament for a new crematorium in Sweden. When I finished it, I was invited to the inauguration. But after learning that the bishop of Stockholm was going to unveil my work, I decided not to share in the ceremony with people whose teachings and customs were in direct conflict with God’s Word.—2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
Because of the uncertainty of obtaining regular employment as a sculptor, I began to find it difficult to care adequately for my family’s material needs. (1 Timothy 5:8) I prayerfully considered what I might do for a living. Afterward, an architect came to me with a model of a building that he had designed. He asked me to photograph it. Since I knew photography well because of experience in photographing my sculptures, I was happy to accept the job. During those years a great deal of construction work was going on in Sweden, and there was a need for photographing models. Thus, I got a lot of work from many architects and could support my family well.
It was during this time that I visited the Italian Cultural Institute in Stockholm to share the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) I knew the director of the institute and was able to arrange to speak with him. It was after he learned I was no longer working as a sculptor that he exclaimed: “You have let art down!” I explained that I had prior obligations to God and my family.
I must admit that for a time art was the most important thing in my life. However, I came to realize that for me, continuing to pursue my career would be comparable to trying to serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) I was convinced that the most important thing I could do was preach the good news of God’s Kingdom. So I made the personal decision to give up my work as a sculptor, and Jehovah God has in a grand way blessed my decision.—Malachi 3:10.
Privileges of Christian Service
During the early 1970’s, many immigrants to Sweden from southern and eastern Europe began to manifest interest in Bible truth. Thus, beginning in 1973, I had the privilege of studying the Bible with immigrants who spoke Italian, Spanish, and Serbo-Croatian, and I was able to help form new congregations and study groups for these language groups. I was appointed to arrange Christian conventions in Italian and to direct Bible dramas at them. On occasion, I also had the privilege of serving congregations in Sweden as a traveling overseer.
As a result of helping to arrange Italian conventions in Sweden, I had contact with the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Rome. The Italian brothers told me that there was a shortage of congregation elders in Italy because of the explosive growth of the preaching work there. So in 1987, Micky and I moved to Liguria, near Genoa, Italy. By then our children were grown and on their own. We spent two wonderful years in Italy and had a part in forming a new congregation in Liguria. We experienced fully the truth of Proverbs 10:22: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich.”
Micky and I sometimes try to sum up our blessings from Jehovah, and the list becomes long. Besides taking part in forming new congregations, we have been able to help several people, including our own children, to the point of dedication and baptism and then on to becoming mature Christians. I do not regret my decision to give up my life as a well-known sculptor, for I have chosen the much more rewarding career of serving our loving God, Jehovah. My loved ones and I have thus received a solid hope for eternal life, thanks to Jehovah.—As told by Celo Pertot.
[Picture on page 13]
Working on a sculpture in 1955
[Picture on page 15]
With my wife