A Wood Carving Masterpiece
In 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.
How the Sculpture Was Created
This statue, by Japanese artist Masakichi, was Ripley’s favorite exhibit and he spent 20 years looking for it.
Crafted with over 2,000 pieces of wood and parts of the artist’s own body (more on this later)
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.
Robert Ripley said it was the most lifelike image ever made of man!
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.
Here is Where It Gets Weird
Then Masakichi pulled out all of his own fingernails, toe nails and teeth and carefully put them in their exact place on the statue. What came next was stranger still. The artist bored a tiny, individual hole for every pore on his body and plucked the corresponding hair from that pore and inserted it at the exact position on the statue.
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).
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 tuberculosis 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.