Wax has been used a medium for creating lifelike figures for hundreds of years. The original Tussauds wax museum was founded in London during the 1800s. The museum now has locations around the globe showcasing wax sculptures of pop culture icons. Madame Tussauds is a global phenomenon combining art with pop culture.
Who was Madam Tussaud?
Marie Tussaud was French artist born in 1761. Marie’s mother was employed by a physician named Dr. Philippe Curtius who had the skill of creating medical wax models. Dr. Curtius taught this skill to a young Tussaud at only 6 years old. She personally created wax sculptures of important figures such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and even Benjamin Franklin. During the Revolution, she even created lifelike wax figures of prominent victims.
She inherited Dr. Curtius wax collection upon his death. Marie later was asked to exhibit her work along phantasmagoria pioneer, Paul Philidor, at the Lyceum Theatre. She traveled through Great Britain and Ireland showcasing collection due to the Napoleonic Wars happening in her home of France.
Marie opened her first museum on Baker Street in London, showcasing her main attraction, the Chamber of Horrors. Her museum became a major public attraction in the city of London and was eventually absorbed into the London Planetarium in its west wing. Today, Madame Tussauds Museums include not only historical figures but movie stars, sports stars, and murderers who rose to notoriety.
There are locations around the globe with different original pieces in them. Today, there are 7 locations in the United alone with various locations in Europe, Asia, and one in Australia. The museum has been passed down throughout generations. Upon Tussaud’s retirement, her son Francois became the chief artist for the exhibition. He then passed the position down to further generations until the current owner, Merlin Entertainments, took control of the brand.
Wax figure sculptures is a craft that has stood the test of time and is still a relevant art form in today’s pop culture It has moved from a scientific field into a tourist industry over the course of 100 years.