Believe It or Not!
This episode of Inside the Vault explores the story behind this amazing work of art and how it ended up as one of Ripley’s most treasured acquisitions ever.
Working with adjustable mirrors, Masakichi made each body part separately using strips of dark wood. Records differ on the number of strips used but it is between 2,000 and 5,000.
The statue is mostly hollow inside. No nails were used; the strips were assembled using dovetail joints, glue and wooden pegs. They are joined so perfectly that no seams can be seen, even with a magnifying glass.
The wood was painted and lacquered to match his skin tone and reflects every tendon, muscle, bone, vein and wrinkle and pore. Masakichi also handcrafted glass eyes that are so technically and visually perfect that they still baffle members of the optical profession.
Robert Ripley said it was the most lifelike image ever made of man!
In this manner he covered the entire sculpture with all of his own hair – head, beard, backs of his hands, legs, eyebrows and eyelashes (yep, and “that” part, too).
Then Masakichi pulled out all of his own fingernails, toe nails and teeth and carefully put them in their exact place on the statue. As a finishing touch he gave the statue his glasses, his clothes, a sculpting tool and a tiny mask he had made.
The figure appears somewhat emaciated because the TB was already taking it’s toll. He was 53 when the amazing statue was finished in 1885.
Masakichi held a private exhibition of his work. He stood beside the artwork to the utter confusion and awe of the audience who could not tell which was him and which was not, nor comprehend how such a magnificent work had been created.