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Madame Marie Tussaud

[too sO'] founder of the most famous wax museum in the world

Madame Marie Tussaud

Marie Grosholtz was born in Strasbourg on December 1, 1761. Her father was killed in the Seven Years' War just two months before her birth. Her mother took her young child with her to Berne (present-day Bern, Switzerland), where she was employed by Dr. Philippe Curtius, whom Marie always called "Uncle."

Although Curtius was a physician by trade, he was even more renowned for the beautiful anatomical wax models he created. So renowned was he in fact, that the Prince de Conti convinced Curtius to move to Paris and take up wax modelling as a full-time profession (in 1765). Marie moved into her "uncle's" home at the age of six, and almost immediately began showing promise as a wax modeler in her own right. She created her first wax figure -- of Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- in 1778, and soon began creating wax models of many the great people of her day. In 1780 she was brought to the Palace at Versailles to instruct Madame Elizabeth, King Louis XVI's sister, in the art of wax modelling; she remained there until the French Revolution.

Imprisoned for three months after coming under suspicion from the Committee of Public Safety in 1793, Marie was released just hours before her scheduled execution thanks to the intervention of an influential friend. She was then forced to prove her allegiance to the Revolution by making death masks of executed persons, including King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre.

Marie's mentor, Dr. Curtius, died in 1794, and left his entire collection of waxworks to her. That collection, combined with the death masks she had been forced to create, became the nucleus of the most famous wax museum in the world. Moving to London in 1802, Tussaud exhibited her impressive collection throughout England for many years before establishing a permanent museum on Baker Street in 1835.

Madame Marie Tussaud died in London on April 16, 1850. Her museum was inherited by her sons, who moved it into a larger building on Marylebone Road in 1884, and it remains there to this day.

Madame Tussaud's

See Also

Marie Antoinette

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This page was last updated on 08/11/2018.