Madame Tussauds' waxworks are known worldwide today, attracting patrons who will stand in line for hours to get inside and catch a glimpse of these lifelike wax models.
Anne Marie Tussaud was the child of a widowed housekeeper.
From her first permanent wax exhibition in the Baker Street Bazaar in 1835 where people would pay sixpence to get in, her wax museums have grown into an incredibly successful worldwide chain, with branches in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Berlin, Dubai, Hamburg, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Moscow, New York City, Shanghai, Vienna and Washington, D.C.
Tussaud was born in 1761, and moved with her mother from Strasbourg after the death of her father, who was a soldier in the Seven Years War. They went to Berne to work from Dr. Philippe Curtius doing housekeeping.
Curtius was a physician and used wax modeling to illustrate anatomy, he would also do death masks and portraits. Tussuad assisted him in this work and he taught her the skill. Tussaud called him uncle.
When Curtius moved to Paris in 1765 the Tussauds moved with him, and it was there they set up a Cabinet de Cire or a Wax Exhibition. It was wildly successful and attracted huge crowds.
Tussaud was very talented at the art of wax modeling and created models of famous people for this cabinet, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin.
In Paris, Tussaud became involved in the French Revolution and met many of its important figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robespierre.
On 12 July 1789, wax heads of Jacques Necker and the duc d'Orléans made by Curtius were carried in a protest march two days before the attack on the Bastille.
Tussaud was arrested during the Reign of Terror her head was shaved in preparation for execution by guillotine. But thanks to Collot d'Herbois's support for Curtius and his household, she was released.
Tussaud would search around among the decapitated heads behind the guillotine for famous figures in order to make death masks. Among others, she made death masks of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre.
burlesque dancer Josephine Baker
On his deathbed, Curtius left his collection of waxworks to Marie. In 1795, she married François Tussaud. They had two children, Joseph and François.
In 1802, Marie Tussaud and her family went to London. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, she was unable to return to France, so she traveled with her collection throughout Great Britain and Ireland.
Madame Tussauds self portrait
In 1835, she established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street, on 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. although most of them perished in a fire in 1925, or under German Bombing in1941. Many of the original casts remained however and were re-cast.
Snoop Dog with his Wax likeness.
Historically the "Chamber of Horrors" portion of the museum has been wildly popular, as people can satisfy their curiosity as to what Jack the Ripper looked like, or Guy Fawkes.
Today you can see the likes of Hitler, or Amy Winehouse, as well as human marvels like Robert Wadlow.
In July 2008, Madame Tussauds' Berlin branch became embroiled in controversy when a 41-year old German man brushed past two guards and decapitated a wax figure depicting Adolf Hitler.
This was believed to be an act of protest against showing the ruthless dictator alongside sports heroes, movie stars, and other historical figures.
However, the statue has since been repaired and the perpetrator has admitted he attacked the statue to win a bet.
The original model of Hitler, unveiled in Madame Tussauds London in April 1933 was frequently vandalised and a replacement in 1936 had to be carefully guarded.
Marie Tussauds' legacy is alive and well and her unique wax-sculpting and cast-taking techniques are still used; each figure takes about six months and up to $250,000.
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