The History of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

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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.

 

The Museum

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.

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Paparazzi 101

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Paparazzi have been around for decades, document historic moments in popular culture around the globe. They document on behalf of the public. Paparazzi are defined as photographers who take images of high-profile individuals usually who are normally going about their normal routines. They make their living by selling their images of people with notoriety to popular magazines and media outlets. Specifically, they work with gossip magazines and tabloids to make their income.

 

Origin

Federico Fellini is credited with coining the term ‘paparazzo’ in his film La Dolce Vita in 1960. Fellini spent many years shadowing scandal sheet photographers. Today, scandalous images can be valued for thousands of dollars, depending on who is captured in the image and what they are doing. For example, in 2006 an anonymous paparazzo told the New York magazine what certain images were valued at. For example, the paparazzo said that an image of George Clooney in 2006 sold for a couple thousand dollars while a photo of him with women sold for around $80,000. The price of the image depends on the narrative that the magazine wants to portray of the celebrity.

 

Legality

There has a been a long tense relationship with those with fame and those wanting to document said fame. Due to the reputation of paparazzi being a nuisance, there are many states and countries that implemented laws and restrictions to lower the tensions between the photographer and their subjects. Yet, in the U.S.A., celebrity media outlets are protected by the First Amendment. In California, the state passed a law in 2013 protecting child celebrities to stop paparazzi from harassing them, regardless of who their parents are.

There are has been even physical encounters between celebrities and paparazzi, as well. One of the first legal and physical battles between a celebrity and a photographer was in 1972 between photographer Ron Galella and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The incident started when Jackie’s secret service agents destroyed Galella’s camera and film after an encounter in Central Park. This lawsuit shaped the way, legally, the parameters of the relationship between the paparazzi and those who are famous.

How a Wax Figure is Made

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Celebrities and iconic people throughout history get the privilege to have a replica of themselves preserved in many wax museums across the globe. Madame Tussauds is the most popular museum franchise that preserves pop culture through the art of sculpture. The process of creating a wax sculpture is quite interesting and requires skill and technique that only few can do. The process of creating a signature Madame Tussauds’ wax figure is normally three months.

 

Step 1 – Celebrity Data Collection

The first step is referred to as “sitting”. The celebrities meet with the artists for almost two hours while they collect their measurements, proportions, skin tone, and specific facial features that make that celebrity iconic. This is when they also take reference photos and even take hair samples!

 

Step 2 – The Skeleton

This is the drafting phase of the celebrity. The start with basic armatures and a clay face and begin creating the foundation for the sculpture. Artists ensure that even the bone and muscle structure are anatomically correct to the original person. The head sculpture can take up to six weeks with around 150g of clay.

 

Step 3 – Moulding

This step of the process takes 170 hours to complete. The original design is molded into plaster and cast with fiberglass. This also allows for replicas of the original sculpture to be recreated. An entire, full figure can weigh around 25 kg.

 

Step 4 – Hair!

Each individual strand of hair is strategically placed by hand. Eyelashes, eyebrows, and even beards are all individual punched into the wax/ This step can take up to four weeks to finish. Once every piece of hair is placed, it is then cut and styled.

 

Step 5 – Skin Tone

Oil paints are used to build up layers to create as realistic skin as possible. Almost 20 different skin colors go into creating a lifelike skin. This is when tattoos, freckles, and moles are painted on.

 

Step 6 – Clothes/Eyes/Teeth

In terms of clothing, many celebrities donate their own clothing for authenticity. If not, designers research and create historically accurate replicas. In addition, custom eyes and teeth are created for the sculpture as well. Sometimes, replica teeth are molded directly from the celebrity. Overall, creating teeth and eyes can take up to about 30 hours.

 

Step 7 – Finishing Touches

Once everything is put into place, the sculpture is then moved to a photography studio to be documented and critiqued. Each figure is maintained every week to ensure that is preserved in the best shape as possible.

Celebrity Wax Figure Collection

The Beyer family truly enjoys visiting Madame Tussauds Wax Museums. It is a fun time seeing all of these celebrities duplicated through the art of wax. Some look almost identical to the real person! Here are some photos we took during our visit to the museum.

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Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts is an actress who has starred in films such as Steel Magnolias to Pretty Woman. She has three Golden Globe Awards and has been nominated for four Oscars.

 

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Rupaul

RuPaul is also known as the “SuperModel of the World”. She is the most famous drag queen across the world and has her hit television show, RuPaul’s’ Drag Race.

 

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Diana Ross

Diana Ross is an American singer and actress. She started her career in the group, The Dynamites, which had a spanning career with many hits throughout the 60’s and 70s.

 

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Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson is a popular actor who has starred in many films directed by Quinten Tarantino. He is also a film producer and comedian who has starred in over 100 films.

 

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Notorious B.I.G.

His career was prominent during the 90’s hip-hop rap movement. Biggie Smalls was a critically acclaimed rapper, some say the best of all time. He was murdered in 1997 by a drive-by shooting.

 

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Michael Jackson

Considered the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson may be one of the most successful performers of the 80’s and 90’s. From starring movies to groundbreaking music videos, Mr.Jackson is an icon.

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Leo DiCaprio

One of the most respected Hollywood actors, Leonardo DiCaprio has starred in many films such as the Titanic to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He has worked extensively with the respected director Martin Scorsese.

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Woody Allen

Woody is an American filmmaker, writer, and actor who has in the entertainment industry for decades.

 

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Jennifer Aniston

Known as the Queen of RomComs, Jennifer Aniston shot to stardom with her role on the hit television series, Friends.

 

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The Osbournes

Ozzy Osbourne, lead singer of the band Black Sabbath. His wife, Sharon, who is a well-known celebrity manager is a popular television personality as well.

 

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The Clintons

Bill Clinton, was the Democratic president from 1993 to 2001. Hillary Clinton has served as first lady, secretary of state, and has run for president of the United States.

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Maya Angelou

Maya is an American poet, speaker, leader, and Civil Rights activist. Her most popular book is I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

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Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks is an American talk show host on American’s Next Top Model. She also had her own television show as well.

 

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Jimi Hendrix

Jimi is an American performer who rose to fame during the Woodstock era.

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Oprah

One of the wealthiest entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Oprah rose to fame through her popular talk show that ran throughout decades. She interviewed everyone from celebrities to interesting stories across the globe.

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Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp started his career as a rock musician. He has done many films with director and producer, Tim Burton. Some of the films he has starred in range from Edward Scissorhands to the Pirates of the Carribean series.

 

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Susan Lucci

Susan Lucci is an iconic daytime actress, known for her role in All My Children.

 

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Elton John
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The Producers
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Usher
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Al Roker & Matt Lauer
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Wife & Samuel L. Jackson
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Lucy!
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The Rock
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The Rock part 2
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Tyra!