Well, maybe not ever, but at least in the top 10 for sure. And by the standards of its time, by far the most life-like looking.
How far would you go to to leave something behind after you pass away? For your loved ones? Like nice photos? Some recordings? A life like statue that can’t be distinguished from you, covering every detail of your body? If you liked the last option, there is a huge chance that you’ll also like the statue made by the Japanese artist Hananuma Masakichi.
The whole story goes like this – Masakichi learned that he was dying of tuberculosis and didn’t have much time left. Determined to leave something behind for the woman he loved, he started working on a statue of himself, that in the end would be almost impossible to tell apart from the original.
Working with adjustable mirrors to map all the details of his body, he recreated every part using strips of dark wood (between 2000 and 5000 strips, based on different sources). The strips were assembled using dovetail joints, glue and wooden pegs, no nails were used in the process. They were joined together so perfectly, that the whole statue seemed to be made from one piece, and you couldn’t detect them even with a magnifying glass. No to mention the fine painting, that perfectly mimics the skin color of Masakichi. But why stop there? Let’s simulate also every muscle, bone, vein, wrinkle and pore when we’re already at it. Eyeballs are next in line, and the detail oriented artist didn’t let loose there either – he handcrafted both of them in such a technical and visual perfection, that they still amaze the professionals of today.
Here comes the fun part. Where do you continue after all of the mentioned is finished? Well, you start to get REALLY detail oriented. Masakichi bored a tiny, individual hole for every pore on his body, and inserting every hair to the corresponding position. Where did he get the hair? From his own body of course. He manually plucked every last of them (hair, body hair, beard, eyebrows..everything) and inserted them into the pores. Then he pulled out his own fingernails, toe-nails and last but not least, all of his teeth and enriched his 3 dimensional mirror image of himself. The finishing touches included giving the statue his own glasses, his clothes, his sculpting tool and a small mask that he was making. The whole amazing work was finished in 1885, when Masakichi was 53. The exhibition where he introduced was also a work of art on it’s own – the artist would stand motionless next to his statue, and the audience was confused since they could not tell the two apart.
..and he lived for another almost 10 years, even though he expected to die much sooner because of his sickness…well, because fate is a cruel trickster. And he also died in poverty, in spite of his talent.
If you would like to know where the statue is today – in 1996 it was badly damaged during the California Earthquake, as a part of Rober Ripley’s Odditorium. After that it was placed in Ripley’s warehouse and awaits the artist, who could match the skill of Masakichi. Multiple copies surfaced from time to time, but the original is probably still hidden from public sight.