Monday, January 07, 2008

Madame Tussaud

Born in 1761 in the French city of Strasbourg, Anna Maria Grosholtz, known under the name of her husband François Tussaud, can be considered as the first paparazzo of the world. At her time, people did not have the possibility of taking photographs, her wax models were consequently a highly prized visual resource. Today, several wax museums have been built all around the world and have make Madame Tussaud a worldwide famous lady. However, I’m sure that some information about her life remains a secret to you…

Anna Maria learned wax modelling at an early age. Her widowed mother left France in order to work in Switzerland as a housekeeper for Dr. Curtius, a brilliant anatomical wax modeller. The physician redirecting his talents to commercial entertainment moved to Paris in 1770, where his wax exhibition (‘Salon de Cire’) was an immediate success. During this crucial period, young Anna Maria acquainted herself with the ‘wax skills’ and created her first wax figure, namely that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1778. Still employed by Dr. Curtius, the young girl was asked to model figures of the French Royal Family, such as Louis XVI. In 1789, Maria and Curtius found themselves in the eye of the Revolutionary storm, since Curtius was charged with the modelling of the heads of the Duke of Orleans and Necker. Regarding Maria, she was sent to prison due to suspicious royalist sympathies. Her talent in wax modelling finally saved her from the guillotine. She however had to adapt to survive and was requested to create masks of the decapitated heads of French governors. Before dying, Curtius bequeathed his entire exhibition and all his wax works to his pupil Maria. At the age of 41, married to Mr Tussaud, she left her family in order to seize the chance to exploit new opportunities in London. For the rest of her life she toured England with an exhibition of figures. The exhibition finally settled in the famous city of London. Madame Tussaud ended her artistic career aged 81 with the creation of a last figure, a self portrait.

During my trip to London, I spent some time in the wax museum which gathers not only old works of the talented woman but also figures of contemporary celebrities. The processes used by Madame Tussaud have been passed down for centuries. New techniques are moreover constantly being explored by ‘The Tussauds’ Studios Team’, which allows current famous persons to appear, not in the flesh but in wax, in the museum’s galleries. This museum verily represents a must-see sight where a wide range of life like wax figures continue to impress each visitor. I was myself quite positively surprised to see how celebrities’ figures from Shakespeare to Hitchcock and even Jack Sparrow are perfectly modelled by means of wax. The decoration of the museum is furthermore awesome, everything is imposing and glittering. There is little doubt that it makes all the visitors dream, naturally only during a short time but still a time that will remain unforgettable! I am extremely pleased to have seen this ‘waxworks empire’ and recommend it to everyone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity of having a picture taken with Prince Charles!


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