To mark the unease of the night before heading back to work following a deliciously lengthy holiday, here is a piece from the archives, from 2001.

It was a time when my dreams were being stalked by demented monsters emerging from the nightmare world of Porcelanas Lladró.

Lladró’s art “recreates a whole world of emotions”, depicting simple, innocent figures. Yet these porcelain figurines suffer in dark, hidden lives, their surface innocence masking subtler evils, whole worlds of dread, and misery, and panic.


Pillow fighting children. What could be more evocative of the innocent tangles of youth? See the standing figure bringing the pillow down on the recumbent figure, a sibling. Eyes sparkle in merriment. Hear the shrieks of laughter.

But wait! That oddly-shaped pillow reveals the truth of the horrid cameo, for in it is hidden a whole jamón ibérico. Who can know what fell porcine rites and mind-bending indoctrination has led this youth to commit such an act of savagery? The raised hands of the supine infant struggling in vain to fend off the attack by the enrobed elder – the glint of dead-eyed indifference – the shrieks fearful.


Here is young Juan, chubby-cheeked, cherubic, a child playing with a toy aeroplane. He looks perhaps a little awkward, at three years old still oddly out of proportion… until the viewer realises with a chill that this gargantuan ogre-child is not playing but plucking a plane from the air, 340 screaming holidaymakers plunged brutishly about the sky in airborne torment. His other hand seems poised as he waits a moment in thought, not sure whether to crumple the plane as he might a tissue, or to break off one end and down the contents like Smarties.


A similar speculative sadism is on the face of the young girl with a butterfly nestled in the palm of her upturned hand. Her left hand is held to one side, to some connoting grace and care, but is that not a wicked glint in her eye? Is it not evident that this sinister hand is but poised with intent, to flatten the flying beauty as wanton children do?


Do not even contemplate the abominations to be inferred from this duo. Do not let the haunted expression of the lugubrious hound wake you howling powerlessly in the dark of the night.

In Andalucía, hunched around a candlelit potter’s wheel, the Brothers Lladró laugh maniacally as they birth fresh hells of deranged horrors.