Thursday, August 19, 2010

Everyone Should Know Madame Tussaud

Marie Tussaud: Madame Tussauds
Born Anna Marie Grosholtz in France, 1761, the name “Marie Tussaud” immediately puts you in mind of the worldwide wax museums which bear her name. When Marie was a child, her father was killed in the Seven Years’ War. Marie’s mother took her to Switzerland where she worked as a maid for Dr. Philippe Curtius. The young girl was fascinated by Dr. Curtius who used wax to model anatomical figures. She began calling him, “Uncle.” When the doctor started to do portraits of people in wax, he allowed Marie to assist him.

Soon, Dr. Curtius’ wax figures had become famous, and he moved to Paris to open a Cabinet de Cire (a wax museum). Marie and her mother moved with the doctor. The exhibition opened in 1770---drawing huge crowds of spectators. Some of the figures from that exhibition still survive and are on display at the London location of Madame Tussaud’s Museum. In 1776, Curtius’ exhibition was moved the Palais Royale, and, in 1782, Curtius opened a second, more shocking location which would be the first version of “The Chamber of Horrors.”

Some of the original figures: Madame Tussauds
All the while, Curtius, taught and encouraged Marie the art of wax modelling. In 1778, she created her first figure—Jean Jacques Rousseau. She would go on to create many more historical figures. For nine years, beginning in 1780, Marie taught sculpting to the children of King Louis XVI who was so enamoured of her work that she was invited to live with the Royal Family at Versailles until the French Revolution of 1789.

Because of her association with the King, Marie was arrested during the Revolution. Her head was shaved and she was slated to go to the guillotine. At the last moment, her life was spared due to her association with Dr. Curtius. She was then employed to make death masks from the heads of those who lost their lives at the guillotine. Marie would search through piles of decapitated heads to find the best examples.

The Self Portrait: Madame Tussauds
When Dr. Curtius died in 1794, he willed his exhibition of waxworks to Marie. The following year, she married François Tussaud with whom she had two children, Joseph and François. 1802 saw the Tussaud family move to England where Marie traveled with her ever-growing collection of waxworks. In 1835, Marie Tussaud opened her first permanent exhibition in London on Baker Street. Her own self-portrait in wax, created in 1842, still stands at the entrance to the London museum. She died in 1850.

Her legend lives on, however. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museums are still worldwide attractions with locations in Amsterdam, Hong Kong), Las Vegas, Shanghai, Berlin, Washington D.C., New York City, and Hollywood. Today, the museums utilize the latest technology in addition to Marie Tussaud’s method of wax sculpting to create incredibly life-like figures. The museums also offer state-of-the-art attractions ranging from holograms to robotics. Though now owned by Merlin Entertainment, Madame Tussaud’s museums operate under the same spirit as did “The Baker Street Bazaar,” only, now, they are able to entertain and educate millions more people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cool ;)