Marie Tussaud - Encyclopedia

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MARIE TUSSAUD (1760-1850), founder of "Madame Tussaud's Exhibition" of wax figures in London, was born in Berne in 1760, the daughter of Joseph Grosholtz (d. 1760), an army officer. Her uncle, a doctor of Berne, John Christopher Curtius, had attracted the attention of the prince de Conti by his beautiful anatomical wax models, and had been induced to move to Paris, abandon his profession, and practise wax modelling as a fine art. His house became the resort of many of the talented men of the day, and here he brought his niece at the age of six, and taught her to model in wax. She became such an adept that she early modelled many of the great people of France, and was finally sent for to stay at the palace at Versailles to instruct the sister of Louis XVI., Mme Elizabeth, in the popular craze. It was from Curtius's exhibition that the mob obtained the busts of Necker and the duke of Orleans that were carried by the procession when on the 12th of July 1789 the first blood of the French Revolution was shed. During the terrible days that followed Marie Grosholtz was called upon to model the heads of many of the prominent leaders and victims of the Revolution, and was herself for three months a prisoner, having fallen under the suspicion of the committee of public safety. In 1794 she married a Frenchman named Tussaud, from whom she was separated in 1800. Her uncle having died in the former year, after some difficulty she secured permission from Napoleon to leave France, and she took with her to London the nucleus of her collection from the cabinet de cire in the Palais Royal, and the idea of her "Chamber of Horrors" from Curtius's Caverne des Grands Voleurs, in the Boulevard du Temple. Her wax figures were successfully shown in the Strand on the site of the Lyceum theatre, and through the provinces, and finally the exhibition was established in permanent London quarters in Baker Street in 1833. Here Mme Tussaud 'died on the 16th of April 1850. She was succeeded by her son Francis Tussaud, he by his son Joseph, and he again by his son John Theodore Tussaud (b. 1859). The exhibition was moved in 1884 to a large building in Marylebone Road.

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