Madame Tussaud was born in Strasburg late in 1761. Her father was a German soldier named Grosholtz, who died two months before she was born. Her young widowed mother, Anne Marie, brought her up at Berne in Switzerland, where she went to be housekeeper to a doctor named Philippe Curtius, who had a talent for wax modeling and ran a museum of his waxwork heads and busts. This is how it all started.
It was from this ‘uncle’ that Madame Tussaud learned the art. After he had moved to Paris, where he gained enough success and stardom, she and her mother joined him and she became his assistant. In this process, she had the opportunity to meet many of the leading French aristocrats and intellectuals of the day and she modelled both Voltaire and Rousseau from life. In the 1780s, She was employed to teach Madame Elizabeth, Louis XVI’s sister, and met the King and many of the royal family.
Curtius died in 1794 and left Madame Tussaud his collection of waxworks. A year later she married a man named François Tussaud. They had two sons, but the marriage could not succeed. After this, she took the boys and her waxworks across the Channel and began years of successful tours around England, Scotland and Ireland before settling down in London in 1835, on the corner of Baker Street and Portman Square. The Duke of Wellington was her regular visitor and liked to look at the effigies of himself and Napoleon, and when Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837 Madame Tussaud’s put on a magnificent display of the scene.
Marie Tussaud died in 1850 was 89 and one of the 19th century’s most successful career women when she died at her London home in Baker Street.
|Madame Tussaud “at the age of 42, when she left France for England”. Portrait study (1921) by John Theodore Tussaud.|
A main attraction of the museum is the Chamber of Horrors — an exhibition that included victims of the French Revolution, murderers, and various other criminals.
All these photos are taken between 1905 and 1961 and are some disturbing images and figures– figures are headless, owner-less hands lie on top of one another, the head of Stalin glares at its creator — and everything is, of course, spine-chillingly realistic.
|1905: Wax models of executed murderers Diereneuk and Barmouth, with Smith, of the ‘Brides in the Bath’ fame.|
|January 01, 1920: The wax figure of Charles Peace, a notorious English murderer, is carried from Madame Tussaud’s to a car, in order to function as honorary president at an evening meeting of the “Crime Club” in the Grosvenor House in London.|
|March 20, 1928: A cameraman films a couple of women as they craft waxwork heads for a new exhibition.|
|March 1928: Moving waxworks into a van bound for Madame Tussaud’s new premises in Marylebone Road, London.|
|June 20, 1928: Two young boys stare at a waxwork model of Princess Elizabeth.|