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Madame Marie Tussaud

Anna Maria “Marie” Tussaud (née Grosholtz; 1 December 1761 – 16 April 1850) was a French born artist of German descent, who became known for her wax sculptures and Madame Tussauds, the wax museum that she founded in London.

Madame Tussaud's self portait in wax, aged 42.
Madame Tussaud “at the age of 42, when she left France for Great Britain”. Portrait study (1921) by John Theodore Tussaud.

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. Her mother, Anne-Marie Walder, took her to Bern where she worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius (1741–1794), a physician and wax sculptor who Marie would call her uncle. Curtius initially used his talent for wax modeling to illustrate anatomy. Later, he did portraits.

The oldest display is that of "Sleeping Beauty", Madame DuBarry.
The oldest waxwork on display is that of the “Sleeping Beauty”, Madame Du Barry.

Curtius moved to Paris in 1765 to establish a cabinet de portraits en cire (wax portrait exhibition). 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, a precursor to the later chamber of horrors, on Boulevard du Temple.

The wax statue of Voltaire on display at Madame Tussauds, London.
The wax statue of Voltaire on display at Madame Tussauds, London.

It was Curtius who 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 Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. At the same time, she remained on good terms with the French royal family. She claimed in later years to have been employed to teach “votive” making to Élisabeth the sister of Louis XVI. Elisabeth, it is said, enjoyed making wax dolls to represent various religious figures.

In her memoirs (a some what unreliable source), Tussaud claimed that it was in this capacity that she was frequently 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.

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.

The French Royal family, as modeled by Madame Tussaud.
The French Royal family, as modeled by Madame Tussaud.

Tussaud was arrested during the Reign of Terror together with Joséphine de Beauharnais; her head was shaved in preparation for execution by guillotine. However, thanks to Collot d’Herbois’ support for Curtius and his household, she was released. Tussaud was then employed to make death masks of the victims of the time, including some of the Revolution’s most infamous dead such as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris. Soon, Tussaud was searching through sanitaries collecting the most illustrious heads she could find.

When Curtius died in 1794, he left his collection of wax works to Tussaud. In 1795, she married François Tussaud. The couple had two children, 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.

When Marie Tussaud moved to London in 1802 to set up her own exhibition at the Lyceum Theatre she brought some of these figures with her and set them up in a separate gallery; and when later she toured her exhibits around the country she maintained this division in her exhibition using a ‘Separate Room’ to display them in. The exhibits at this time included the heads of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, as well as Madame du Barry, Marat, Robespierre, Hébert, Carrier and Fouquier-Tinville in addition to models of a guillotine and the Bastille and the Egyptian mummy from Curtuis’ collection.

An advertisement for Madame Tussaud's exhibition.
An advertisement for Madame Tussaud’s exhibition.

As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Tussaud was unable to return to France so she traveled with her collection throughout Great Britain and Ireland. In 1822, probably during Chateaubriand’s ambassadorship, her other son, François, joined her. In 1835, she established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street, on the upper floor of the “Baker Street Bazaar”. Here the ‘Separate Room’ became the ‘Chamber of Horrors’. At this time her exhibits included Colonel Despard, Arthur Thistlewood, William Corder and Burke and Hare, in addition to those listed above. The name ‘Chamber of Horrors’ is often credited to a contributor to Punch in 1845, but Marie Tussaud appears to have originated it herself, using it in advertising as early as 1843. Visitors were charged an extra sixpence to enter the ‘Separate Room’.

 

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Chamber of Horrors, 1849 by Richard Doyle 1824–1883)

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.

Madame Tussaud, herself, greets visitors at her epoymous museum.
Madame Tussauds own self portrait greets visitors at her eponymous museum.

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.

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Madame Tussaud’s sons, from “The Romance of Madame Tussauds“, written by her great-grandson, John Theodore Tussaud.

 

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 Tussauds, London
Madame Tussauds, London

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, and Hollywood. The current owner is Merlin Entertainments Group,[3] a company owned by Blackstone Group.

 

Information and photos from Wikipedia.com

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Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks in London

The making of life-size wax figures wearing real clothes grew out of the funeral practices of European royalty. In the Middle Ages it was the habit to carry the corpse, fully dressed, on top of the coffin at royal funerals, but this sometimes had unfortunate consequences in hot weather, and the custom of making an effigy in wax for this role grew, again wearing actual clothes so that only the head and hands needed wax models. After the funeral these were often displayed by the tomb or elsewhere in the church, and became a popular attraction for visitors, which it was often necessary to pay to view.

"Elizabeth of york - funeral effigy" by lisby1 -
“Elizabeth of York”, funeral effigy” by lisby1 –

The museum of Westminster Abbey in London has a collection of British royal wax effigies going back to that of Edward III of England (died 1377), as well as those of figures such as the naval hero Horatio Nelson, and Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond, who also had her parrot stuffed and displayed. From the funeral of Charles II in 1680 they were no longer placed on the coffin but were still made for later display. The effigy of Charles II, open-eyed and standing, was displayed over his tomb until the early 19th century, when all the Westminster effigies were removed from the abbey itself. Nelson’s effigy was a pure tourist attraction, commissioned the year after his death in 1805, and his burial not in the Abbey but in St Paul’s Cathedral after a government decision that major public figures should in future be buried there. Concerned for their revenue from visitors, the Abbey decided it needed a rival attraction for admirers of Nelson.

In European courts including that of France the making of posed wax figures became popular. Antoine Benoist (1632–1717) was a French court painter and sculptor in wax to King Louis XIV. He exhibited forty-three wax figures of the French Royal Circle at his residence in Paris. Thereafter, the king authorized the figurines to be shown throughout France. His work became so highly regarded that James II of England invited him to visit England in 1684. There he executed works of the English king and members of his court. A seated figure of Peter the Great of Russia survives, made by an Italian artist, after the Tsar was impressed by the figures he saw at the Chateau of Versailles. The Danish court painter Johann Salomon Wahl executed figures of the Danish king and queen in about 1740.

The ‘Moving Wax Works of the Royal Court of England’, a museum or exhibition of 140 life-size figures, some apparently with clockwork moving parts, opened by Mrs Mary in Fleet Street in London was doing excellent business in 1711. Philippe Curtius, waxwork modeller to the French court, opened his Cabinet de Cire as a tourist attraction in Paris in 1770, which remained open until 1802. In 1783 this added a Caverne des Grandes Voleurs (“Cave of the Great Thieves”), an early “Chamber of Horrors”. He bequeathed his collection to his protegé Marie Tussaud, who during the French Revolution made death masks of the executed royals. Later she would bring her collection and expertise to London and open one of the most successful waxworks in history.

An advertisement for Madame Tussaud's exhibition.
A french advertisement for Madame Tussaud’s London exhibition.

Tussaud created her first wax sculpture, of Voltaire, in 1777. Other famous people she modelled at that time include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin.

The wax statue of Voltaire on display at Madame Tussauds, London.
The wax statue of Voltaire on display at Madame Tussauds, London.

In 1802 she went to London, 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, she was unable to return to France, so she traveled throughout Great Britain and Ireland exhibiting her collection. From 1831 she took a series of short leases on the upper floor of “Baker Street Bazaar” (on the west side of Baker Street, Dorset Street and King Street). This became Tussaud’s first permanent home in 1836. One of the main attractions of her museum was the Chamber of Horrors.

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Chamber of Horrors, 1849 by Richard Doyle (1824–1883)

The name ‘Chamber of Horrors’ is often credited to a contributor to Punch in 1845, but Marie Tussaud appears to have originated it herself, using it in advertising as early as 1843. Visitors were charged an extra sixpence to enter the ‘Separate Room’.

The French Royal family, as modeled by Madame Tussaud.
The French Royal family, as modeled by Madame Tussaud.

This part of the exhibition is in the basement of the building and includes wax heads made from the death masks of victims of the French Revolution including Marat, Robespierre, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were modeled by Marie Tussaud herself at the time of their deaths or execution, and more recent figures of murderers and other notorious criminals.

The oldest display is that of "Sleeping Beauty", Madame DuBarry.
The oldest figure on display is that of the “Sleeping Beauty”, Madame Du Barry.

Other famous people were added to the exhibition, including Horatio Nelson, and Sir Walter Scott. Some of the sculptures done by Marie Tussaud herself still exist. The gallery originally contained some 400 different figures, but fire damage in 1925, coupled with German bombs in 1941, has rendered most of these older models defunct. The casts themselves have survived (allowing the historical waxworks to be remade), and these can be seen in the museum’s history exhibit. The oldest figure on display is that of Madame du Barry. Other faces from the time of Tussaud include Robespierre and George III. In 1842, she made a self portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. She died in her sleep on 15 April 1850.

By 1883 the restricted space and rising cost of the Baker Street site prompted her grandson (Joseph Randall) to commission the building at its current location on Marylebone Road. The new exhibition galleries were opened on 14 July 1884 and were a great success.

Madame Tussauds, London
Madame Tussauds, London

Madame Tussaud’s wax museum has now grown to become a major tourist attraction in London. It has expanded and will expand with branches in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Berlin, Blackpool, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, New York City, Shanghai, Sydney, Vienna, Washington, D.C., Wuhan, Tokyo and a temporary museum in Busan (Korea) with locations coming to Beijing, Prague, Singapore, Orlando and San Francisco. Today’s wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and famous murderers. Known as “Madame Tussauds” museums (no apostrophe), they are owned by a leisure company called Merlin Entertainments, following the acquisition of The Tussauds Group in May 2007.

Information and images provided by Wikipedia.com

 

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The Egyptian Hall

With the French occupation and exploration of Egypt in 1798 (Napoleon was seeking to cut off British interests in India) a mania for all things Pharonic came into vogue. The Battle of the Nile, in August, 1798, allowed the British to gain an advantage, and by 1801 they were in the process of taking over French positions and possessions. One of these acquisitions was the recently discovered Rosetta Stone (discovered in 1799 and on display at the British Museum since 1802) which would prove to be the key to unlocking the ancient hieroglyphics which decorated many of the temples and royal tombs that were being discovered.

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William Bullock, collector of curiosities…

Egyptian style architecture and furniture were in high demand, and as ever, the enterprising among Britain’s populace were keen to take their share. No one was more prepared to do this than William Bullock.

Bullock was the son of William Bullock and his wife Elizabeth (née Smallwood) proprietors of a travelling waxworks. He began as a goldsmith and jeweller in Birmingham. By 1795 Bullock was in Liverpool, where he founded a Museum of Natural Curiosities at 24 Lord Street. While still trading as a jeweller and goldsmith, in 1801 he published a descriptive catalogue of the works of art, armoury, objects of natural history, and other curiosities in the collection, some of which had been brought back by members of James Cook’s expeditions.

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Bullock’s collection on display.

Continue reading The Egyptian Hall