Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Madame Tussaud (1761-1850), born Marie Grosholtz worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius , a physician skilled in wax modelling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. In 1765, Curtius made a waxwork of Marie Jean du Barry, Louis XV's mistress. A cast of that mould is the oldest work currently on display.
The first exhibition of Curtius' waxworks was shown in 1770, and attracted a lot of people. The exhibition moved to the Palais Royal in 1776. He opened a second location on Boulevard du Temple in 1782, the "Caverne des Grands Voleurs", a precursor to the later chamber of horrors.
Tussaud created her first wax figure, of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in 1778. Other famous persons she modelled at that time include Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. When Curtius died 1794 he left his collection of waxworks to Marie. In 1802 Marie Tussaud went to London, and as a result of the Franco-English war she was unable to return to France, so with her collection she travelled throughout Great Britain and Ireland. She established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street in 1835 (on the "Baker Street Bazaar")
In 1842 she made a self portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum.
One of the main attractions of her museum was the 'Chamber of Horrors'. This part of the exhibition included some victims of the French Revolution but also newly created figures of murders and other criminals. The name was given by a contributor to Punch in 1845.
Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now grown to become one of the major tourist attractions in London, incorporating the London Planetarium in its west wing. It has expanded with branches in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hong Kong (Victoria Peak), Las Vegas and New York City. Today wax figures of the Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and famous murderers. It is owned by a leisure company called The Tussauds Group.
References and External Links
- Madame Tussaud's memoirs and reminiscences of France, by Marie Tussaud, ed. by F. Hervé, London 1838.
- History of Madame Tussauds. List of dates in Marie Tussauds life, maintained by the museum.
- Waxing Revolutionary: Reflections on a raid on a waxworks at the outbreak of the French revolution, by David McCallam, French History, vol 16, No. 2.
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