For more than 200 years, Madame Tussauds has been entertaining and educating millions of people with its signature wax figures. Madame Tussauds has locations in London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, New York, Shanghai, and Washington D.C. Madame Tussauds welcomes it’s 8th attraction in Berlin in the Summer of 2008 and its 9th attraction in Hollywood in Spring 2009.
Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1760 in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked as a housekeeper for Dr Philippe Curtius in Bern, Switzerland, who was a physician skilled in wax modelling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. Tussaud created her first wax sculpture, of Voltaire, in 1777. Other famous people she modelled at that time include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. During the French Revolution she modelled many prominent victims. In her memoirs she claims that she would search through corpses to find the severed heads of executed citizens, from which she would make death masks. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris. Following the doctor’s death in 1794, she inherited his vast collection of wax models and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. She married to Francois Tussaud in 1795 lent a new name to the show: Madame Tussaud’s. In 1802 she went to London, having accepted an invitation from Paul Philidor, a magic lantern and phantasmagoria pioneer, to exhibit her work alongside his show at the Lyceum Theatre, London. She did not fare particularly well financially, with Philidor taking half of her profits. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, she was unable to return to France, so she traveled throughout Great Britain and Ireland exhibiting her collection. From 1831 she took a series of short leases on the upper floor of “Baker Street Bazaar” (on the west side of Baker Street, Dorset Street and King Street), which later featured in the Druce-Portland case sequence of trials of 1898–1907. This became Tussaud’s first permanent home in 1836. One of the main attractions of her museum was the Chamber of Horrors.
By 1835 Marie had settled down in Baker Street, London, and opened a museum. This part of the exhibition included victims of the French Revolution and newly created figures of murderers and other criminals. The name is often credited to a contributor to Punch in 1845, but Marie appears to have originated it herself, using it in advertising as early as 1843.
The gallery originally contained some 400 different figures, but fire damage in 1925, coupled with German bombs in 1941, has rendered most of these older models defunct. The casts themselves have survived (allowing the historical waxworks to be remade), and these can be seen in the museum’s history exhibit. The oldest figure on display is that of Madame du Barry. Other faces from the time of Tussaud include Robespierre and George III. In 1842, she made a self portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. She died in her sleep on 15 April 1850.
She left her collection to her two sons, who, with her grandchildren, continued the business. Today, The Merlin Entertainments Group operates the attraction and ensures that the spirit, artistry and vision of Madame Tussaud live on.
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Monday to Friday 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.