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Iki-Nigyo Lifelike Armour Displays

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#1 DaveT


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Posted 20 December 2016 - 01:57 PM

Iki Ningyo  生人形

Iki Ningyo are a form of doll, or mannequin. During the late edo period many items of samurai armour were sold to the west as curiosities. The dolls were manufactured as an alternative to displaying armour on a traditional wooden stand.  

Unlike hyper realistic versions the samurai dolls were almost cartoon like in their features, almost a mixture of woodblock print characters, Noh masks and bunraku puppets. Samurai Iki-Ningyo appear in most national museums and leading private collections throughout the world. They are constructed from wood, plaster and paper, making them rather fragile. With these being so easly damaged they have become somewhat of a rarity, with not many original existing examples to be found in Japan or the west. As a result they have become highly collectable.

I have been searching for one of these for over 30 years, and by luck I managed to acquire one in late 2016 from an action site. The head I have is a very good example and is believed to have been made by the artist Kamehachi Masahiro. It has glass eyes and teeth made from ivory.

My head was damaged, they were a number of craters, dents and cracks. The mouth was about to cave in with the left hand side of the face. I therefore decided to repair it.

During the repair I was able to take a silicone mould of the head. This has presented the opportunity to manufacture a number of reproductions. The progress is slow, but I am getting there. Last week I obtained glass eyes and have made some working roughs.

Here are some photo's of the progress.

15195958_10153971035022190_4745510320905The original head, what you cannot see from the photo was the caved in damaged areas.


In this photo I've removed the damaged areas.


Rough repair and a copy of the eye.



Alternative glass eye.





15443187_10154032378467190_5261606266083I'll post more photos as this project continues. I will be making a number of full sized mannequins too.
The original needs its moustache returned, I guess that will be around late feb 2017.


I'd love to know if any other collectors have one of these?

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#2 Greg F

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 02:51 PM

Wow Dave you amaze me with your work, well done mate. I look forward to seeing the progress.

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#3 Malcolm


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Posted 21 December 2016 - 10:19 AM

WOW!!!! :thumbsup:  :thumbsup:  :thumbsup:


They have a collection at Tokyo National Museum:


Here's the link:






I wonder if the colour of yours is oxidation of the pigment?


As the ones at Tokyo National are lifelike skin tone.


Maybe a choice to go more red to make the Gaijin punters happy??


Also a stylising of the eyes and eyebrows, more like a Chinese Opera Make up?


Again, perhaps directed by the Gaijin commissioning the work??


Worth firing off an email to  TNM to see if they have any red tone examples and what they think about the stylising of the features?


There, you got me all serious and businesslike....It won't Last :laughing:

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#4 DaveT


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Posted 21 December 2016 - 11:34 AM

I've seen these before at the museum, they are more hyper-realistic iki-ningyo Malcolm. Totally stunning.

As I said in the text above the export ones for armour seem to have more of a cartoon / doll appearance. I guess hyper realism in armour = spooky.
As to pigment, this is an odd one as they are a reddish brown, like a native american indian. The undercoat is a bright pink. I don't think that the pigments have changed as I made the effort to cut it back a little and the pigment remained unchanged. 

Also some advancement, yesterday I managed to pull this from the mould. I used Paper-mache which is surprisingly robust.
There's still enough of a gap in the next to get my hand in to fix the glass eyes. Human hair is now on order.




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#5 javier


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Posted 26 December 2016 - 08:47 PM

Amazing Job Dave !


I would love to own one in the future after buying my first Kabuto!



I am attaching a few pictures of Iki Ningyo examples from the Buenos Aires National Arms museum. 



Best regards






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#6 Greg F

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 02:38 AM

Almost 2 years ago when visiting the VA muse in London there was at least one of these on display. Very cool stuff. Definitely gives the the armor a life like look. Once again Dave great work mate.

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