The cloaked figure of “Religion” was made for the tomb of Varvàra Jakovlevna Tatisceva, wife of prince Aleksandr Michailoviĉ Belosel’skij, Russian ambassador to the court of Savoy from 1792 to 1793. Remembered by sources as a cultured man and a lover of the arts, particularly music, having commissioned works by Lorenzo Pécheux and others, the prince chose to commission the renowned Roman sculptor to produce the sculptural group in “white Carrara marble, depicting Religion and three cherubs” to decorate the tomb of his young wife in the urban cemetery in Turin, which no longer exists.
The appearance of the entire monument, which was placed in an aedicula with an illusory landscape painted on the rear wall, is documented in an engraving by Luigi Valperga made immediately after the completion of the work: the “veiled figure” stood on a tall pedestal with an epigraph in verse on the front, flanked by three childlike figures supporting an oval bas relief with the effigy of the deceased. The epitaph referred to the duration of affections beyond the limits of earthly life and the expressive and sentimental value of the sculpted image: “O sentiment, sentiment! Douce vie de l’âme! Quel est le cœur / que tu n’as jamais touché quel est l’infortuné mortel / à qui tu n’as jamais donné le doux plaisir de répandre des larmes / et quelle peut-être l’âme impitoyable que l’aspect / de ce monument si simple et si pieux ne se recueille / avec mélancolie et ne pardonne généreusement / aux défauts du malheureux époux qui l’a élevé!”
The statue of “Religion” is all that remains of the tomb, which was transported to the San Pietro in Vincoli cemetery in 1862 and then recovered in a state of advanced decay near the Mole Antonelliana, before becoming part of the GAM collection. To create this severe figure, inspired by Winckelmann’s concept of “noble simplicity” and not without a subtle mournful charm, Spinazzi referred to one of his most appreciated works, the statue of “Faith” made in 1781 for the church of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi in Florence. The motif and pose of the prototype were repeated with minimal variations and the sculpting of the drapery is just as delicate, with thick folds that chastely conceal the beautiful feminine form.