Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Bern, Switzerland, who was a physician skilled in wax modelling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. He moved to Paris and took his young apprentice, only 6 years old, with him.
Tussaud created her first wax sculpture in 1777 of Voltaire. At the age of 17 she became the art tutor to King Louis XVI of France’s sister, Madame Elizabeth, at the Palace of Versailles. During the French Revolution she was imprisoned for three months awaiting execution, but was released after the intervention of an influential friend. Other famous people whom she modelled included Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. During the Revolution, she modelled many prominent victims. She claims that she would search through corpses to find the severed heads of executed citizens, from which she would make death masks. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris.
She inherited the doctor's vast collection of wax models following his death in 1794, and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. She married Francois Tussaud in 1795, and the show acquired a new name: Madame Tussaud's. In 1802, she 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.
She was unable to return to France because of the Napoleonic Wars, 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), which later featured in the Druce-Portland case sequence of trials of 1898–1907. This became Tussaud's first permanent home in 1836.
By 1835, Marie had settled down in Baker Street, London and opened a museum. One of the main attractions of her museum was the Chamber of Horrors. The name is often credited to a contributor to Punch in 1845, but Marie appears to have originated it herself, using it in advertising as early as 1843.
This part of the exhibition included victims of the French Revolution and newly created figures of murderers and other criminals. Other famous people were added, including Lord Nelson and Sir Walter Scott.
Some sculptures still exist that were done by Marie Tussaud herself. 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, the work of Curtius from 1765 and part of the waxworks left to Tussaud at his death. 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. However, Randall had bought out his cousin Louisa's half share in the business in 1881, and that plus the building costs meant that the business was under-funded. A limited company was formed in 1888 to attract fresh capital but had to be dissolved after disagreements between the family shareholders, and Tussaud's was sold to a group of businessmen in February 1889 led by Edwin Josiah Poyser.
Edward White was an artist who was dismissed by the new owners to save money; he allegedly sent a parcel bomb to John Theodore Tussaud in June 1889 in revenge.
The first sculpture of a young Winston Churchill was made in 1908, with a total of ten made since. The first overseas branch of Madame Tussauds was opened in Amsterdam in 1970.
Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now become a major tourist attraction in London, incorporating (until 2010) the London Planetarium in its west wing. Today's wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars, and famous murderers. It is known as "Madame Tussauds" museums (no apostrophe) and is owned by a leisure company called Merlin Entertainments, following the acquisition of The Tussauds Group in May 2007.
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 that he attacked the statue to win a bet. The original model of Hitler was unveiled in Madame Tussauds London in April 1933; it was frequently vandalised and a 1936 replacement had to be carefully guarded.
In November 2015, Madame Tussauds announced that it would open a museum in New Delhi in 2017.
Trinidadian-American recording artist Nicki Minaj's statue at the Las Vegas museum was provided extra security following an act of vandalism by one of her fans who took some "inappropriate" photos in June 2015.
In January 2016, the statue of Adolf Hitler was removed from the London museum in response to an open letter sent by a staff writer of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, followed by significant support for its removal from social media.Beijing, ChinaChongqing, ChinaHong KongShanghai, ChinaWuhan, ChinaNew Delhi, India (opening in June 2017)Tokyo, JapanSingaporeBangkok, ThailandAmsterdam, NetherlandsBerlin, GermanyBlackpool, United KingdomIstanbul, TurkeyLondon, United KingdomPrague, Czech RepublicVienna, AustriaHollywood, United StatesHot Springs National Park, AR, United StatesLas Vegas, United StatesNashville, United States (opening Spring 2017)New York City, New York, United StatesOrlando, United StatesSan Francisco, United StatesWashington D.C., United StatesSydney, Australia
Many times celebrities pose like their wax figures as pranks and publicity stunts.On 3 November 2009, the museum's New York City branch was featured in a segment on NBC's The Today Show in which weatherman Al Roker posed in place of his lifelike wax figure for two hours and startled unsuspecting visitors, who were at first led to believe they were viewing Roker's wax counterpart.In 2010, Ozzy Osbourne did similarly in New York to promote his Scream (2010) album.In 2012, One Direction posed as their statues in the London museum, as a prank for the TV series Surprise Surprise.National Basketball Association players Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin pranked fans during the unveiling of their statues at the New York and San Francisco museums, respectively.In 2015, Arnold Schwarzenegger posed as the Terminator statue in the Hollywood museum, to promote a charity event.In Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Mr. Hannay tells Pamela that his uncle is featured in Madame Tussaud's murderer section and that one day she will be able to take her grandchildren to Madame Tussaud's to see him.Some sequences of the film Housefull 3 were shot in the Madame Tussauds,London.Parts of the film Fan (2016) were shot at Madame Tussauds, making it the first Indian film to be shot there.Madame Tussauds features in the film Shanghai Knights (2003).Madame Tussauds is featured in an Assassin's Creed Unity side mission, where the player is tasked with retrieving the severed heads of which Madame Tussauds was commissioned to make replicas.There is a brief reference to Madame Tussaud's work in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Mazarin Stone."In Elizabeth Bowen's novel The Death of the Heart (1938), Portia and Eddie have tea at Madame Tussaud's and Portia is disappointed that the waitresses are real and not made of wax.In Gilbert and Sullivan's song "My Object All Sublime", from The Mikado (1885), the title character sings of punishments fitting the crime, including:
The amateur tenor, whose vocal villainiesAll desire to shirk,Shall, during off-hoursExhibit his powersTo Madame Tussaud's waxwork.Madame Tussauds is the focus of Steve Taylor's song "Meltdown (at Madame Tussauds)", which describes someone turning up the thermostat and causing the wax figures to melt. Taylor wrote the song as "a new metaphor to ask [the] same question" as Jesus, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"The Beatles had their wax figures featured along with cardboard cutouts of various famous people in the cover art for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).Several sculptures from the London branch ( including George Bush and Blair ) appear in the music video "Pop!ular" by singer-songwriter Darren Hayes.Madame Tussauds sculptures are used on the cover of Rick Wakeman's album The Six Wives of Henry VIII. A waxwork of Richard Nixon also appears in the background.Marie Tussaud is mentioned in The Scarlet Pimpernel (first run on stage in 1903, first publication 1905).The museum was featured on the History Channel's series, Life After People: The Series.In 2015, the judges of NBC show America's Got Talent posed in the New York Madame Tussaud's location and led visitors to believe that they were part of a special display, when they were actually real people. "Episode 18". America's Got Talent. Season 10. NBC. Tussauds appeared in an episode of Living TV's paranormal programme Most Haunted.The Doctor Who serial Spearhead from Space features a scene at Madame Tussauds.Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas was featured in Travel Channel`s Ghost Adventures.In the Parks and Recreation episode "Indianapolis", Leslie Knope mentions the "Misshapen Celebrity Palace", a fictional tourist trap where Madame Tussauds sends their failed wax figuresMadame Tussauds is mentioned in the American-British drama series "Penny Dreadful": Season 2, Episode 1