Madame Tussaud "at the age of 42, when she left France for England". Portrait study (1921) by John Theodore Tussaud.
|Born||Anna Maria Grosholtz
1 December 1761
|Died||16 April 1850 (aged 88)
|Known for||Wax modelling|
|Notable work||Madame Tussauds|
Marie Tussaud was born 1 December 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her father, Joseph Grosholtz, was killed in the Seven Years' War just two months before Marie was born. At the age of six her mother, Anne-Marie Walder, took her to Bern, in Switzerland. There the family moved into the home of local doctor Philippe Curtius (1741–1794), for whom Anne-Marie acted as housekeeper.
Curtius, who Marie would call her uncle, wasn't only a physician, but he was also skilled in wax modeling. He initially used his talent as wax sculptor to illustrate anatomy but later for portraits. He moved to Paris in 1765 to establish a Cabinet de Portraits En Cire (Cabinet of Portraits in Wax). In that year, he made a waxwork of Louis XV's last mistress, Madame du Barry, a cast that is the oldest work currently on display. A year later, Tussaud and her mother joined Curtius in Paris. The first exhibition of Curtius' waxworks was shown in 1770 and attracted a large crowd. In 1776, the exhibition was moved to the Palais Royal and, in 1782, Curtius opened a second exhibit, the Caverne des Grands Voleurs (Cavern of the Grand Thieves), a precursor to Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors, on Boulevard du Temple.
Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modeling. She showed talent for the technique and began working for him as an artist. In 1777, she created her first wax figure, that of Voltaire. From 1780 until the Revolution in 1789, Tussaud created many of her most famous portraits of celebrities such as those of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. During this period her memoirs claim she became employed to teach votive making to Élisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI. In her memoirs, she admitted to be privy to private conversations between the princess and her brother and members of his court. She also claimed that members of the royal family were so pleased with her work that she was invited to live at Versailles for a period of 9 years. Though no contemporary evidence confirm her accounts.
Tussaud was perceived as a royal sympathizer; in the Reign of Terror she was arrested, along with Joséphine de Beauharnais, and her head was shaved in preparation for her execution by guillotine. She was released thanks to Collot d'Herbois' support for Curtius and his household. Tussaud was then employed to make death masks of the revolution's famous victims, including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre. Her death masks were paraded through the streets of Paris, like revolutionary flags. Conflicting accounts argue over whether Tussaud sought through the dead to collect the most illustrious heads she could find, as stated in her memoirs.
When Curtius died in 1794, he left his collection of wax works to Tussaud. In 1795, she married François Tussaud, a civil engineer. The couple had three children, a daughter who died after birth, and two sons, Joseph and François.
In 1802, after the Treaty of Amiens, Tussaud went to London with her son Joseph, then four years old, to present her collection of portraits. 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, Tussaud was unable to return to France so she traveled with her collection throughout the British Isles. In 1822, she reunited with her other son, François, who joined her in the family business. Her husband remained in France and the two never again saw each other. In 1835, after 33 years touring Britain, she established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street, on the upper floor of the "Baker Street Bazaar". In 1838, she wrote her memoirs. In 1842, she made a self-portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. Some of the sculptures done by Tussaud herself still exist.
She died in her sleep in London on 16 April 1850 at the age of 88. There is a memorial tablet to Madame Marie Tussaud on the right side of the nave of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan Street, London.
Upon Marie Tussaud's retirement, her son François (or Francis) became chief artist for the Exhibition. He was succeeded in turn by his son Joseph, who was succeeded by his son John Theodore Tussaud.
Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now grown to become one of the major tourist attractions in London, and has expanded with branches in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Sydney, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong (Victoria Peak), Las Vegas, Shanghai, Berlin, Washington, D.C., New York City, Orlando, Hollywood and Singapore. The current owner is Merlin Entertainments Group, a company owned by Blackstone Group.
- "Marie Tussaud". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed 19 August 2016.
- Concannon, Undine. "Tussaud, Anna Maria (bap. 1761, d. 1850)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004 ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27897.
- Du Plessis, Amelia. "England – Madame Tussauds". Informational site about England. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- Graphico. "Madame Tussauds" (PDF). www.madametussauds.com. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
- "Marie Tussaud Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Marie Tussaud". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
- Pilbeam, Pamela (2006). Madame Tussaud: And the History of Waxworks. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 102–106. ISBN 1-85285-511-8.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Tussaud, Marie". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Cottrell, Leonard (1951). Madame Tussaud. London: The Camelot Press.
- Hayley, R. M. (1878). Memoirs of Madame Tussaud: Her Eventful History. London: George Routledge and Sons.
- Leslie, Anita; Chapman, Pauline (1978). Madame Tussaud, Waxworker Extraordinary. London: Hutchinson.
- Tussaud, Marie (1838). Hervé, Francis, ed.. Madame Tussaud's Memoirs and Reminiscences of France. London: Saunders and Otley.
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