Italy, 1917. An art collector finds three unusual statues in a small museum in Aquileia. They appear to represent angels with insect wings, pincers, and extra sets of limbs. Entranced by them, he would acquire the sculptures for his personal collection.
To find more about them he contacted Francis Aidan Gasquet, Archivist in the Vatican.
They found a codex from 15th century Spain. It was commissioned by Antonio Pérez de Ayala, a nobleman’s son turned monk. It describes his spiritual experience after “finding an angel”. The angel was said to come from a cocoon found in the sea. It was likely worshiped in Ayala’s monastery, as proved by the surviving works of art.
We do not know what happened, only a letter that was found in which the Vatican asks a local noble for help to “destroy a heresy”.
The art collector never released the statues from his personal collection, so the old pictures are all the proof we have of their existence.
© Eduardo Valdés-Hevia
Sources: Europeana, Met Museum, Pikist, Sharp Photography, British Library.