Hananuma Masakichi is one of those extraordinary artist who never really got the recognition they deserved. This Japanese sculptor created a life size statue of himself that is almost 100% identical in appearance to its maker. Although created over a century ago, the Masakichi sculpture still baffles artists and scientists alike.
Masakichi started working on his greatest masterpiece after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He believed he was going to dies soon, and decided to create a life-size statue of himself as a gift for the woman he loved. In 1885, when his artwork was finally completed, it was so life-like and realistic-looking that people couldn’t tell which was the fake even when the real Masakichi stood next to it. Working with adjustable mirrors, the Japanese artist made each of his body-parts separately, using strips of dark wood. The number of strips he used differs between 2,000 and 5,000, depending on which source you believe. No nails were used during the building process, the wooden strips were all assembled using dovetail joints, glue and wooden pegs. They are joined so perfectly that no seams can be seen on the wooden statue, even with a magnifying glass. The level of detail achieved by Masakichi is so mind-blowing that it reflects every tendon, muscle, vein, bone, wrinkle, down to the pores on his body. The anatomically-correct eyeballs he created for his statue still have opticians wondering how he made them.
But how does one make such a detailed replica of the human body? I’d say the right answer to that question is “with great sacrifice”. In order to create a perfect replica of himself, Masakichi painted and lacquered the statue to match his skin tone and used his own hair and nails to make it more realistic. The talented sculptor bore tiny holes for every pore on his body, then plucked the hairs from the respective pores on his body and inserted them in the exact same place on the statue. He covered the head, back of the hands, legs, eyebrows, eyelashes and even the private parts with his very own hair. What came next is even more shocking: he puled out all of his fingernails, toenails and teeth and placed them on his wooden statue. He even gave it his glasses, clothes and a sculpting tool to make it look more real. If the statue looks somewhat emaciated it’s because the tuberculosis was already taking its toll on Masakichi. He was 53 when he finished the life-like wooden model of himself, and held a private exhibition where he appeared alongside his creation, confusing the audience, who couldn’t tell which was human and which was fake. Although he lived for 10 more years after completing his incredible work, Masakichi died a poor man…
The Masakichi sculpture was acquired by Robert Ripley, and became his favorite exhibit. Unfortunately, it was seriously damaged during the 1996 Northridge, California Earthquake, and has since then been waiting in a Ripley’s warehouse for someone with Masakichi’s talent to restore it. Sightings of the statue in Ripley’s Odditoriums, but no one has been able to confirm its restoration so far.