In the summer of 1789, France was in crisis. The people of France wanted a greater say in their government and how it was run. However, King Louis XVI sparked outrage when he fired Finance Minister Jacques Necker, who was open to reform. In the wake of this decision, revolutionaries took to the streets of Paris, waving black flags and burning wax effigies of Necker and pro-democracy prince, the Duke of New Orleans. The wax effigies had been sculpted by an apprentice of a well-known waxwork artist. That apprentice was called Marie Grosholtz, who would go on to be recognised by her married name, Madame Tussaud.
Marie went on to sculpt a collection of waxworks inspired by the horrors she witnessed during the French Revolution. Her work really captured the imagination of the public and she continued to make wax figures. She tended to blend the famous with the grotesque, creating plaster casts and death masks of beheaded victims of public executions, some of which she knew well. Eventually, Marie left France and began to tour with her collection of waxworks. In 1795, she married Francois Tussaud, and her travelling show became, as it’s known today, ‘Madame Tussauds’. Francois and Marie had two sons together, however, their marriage grew strained.
Marie met German illusionist Paul Philidor, who used magic lanterns to project slides of ghosts and ghouls. His show proved to be very popular. They decided to join forces and entered into a joint tour showing at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Marie travelled to England, only to be disappointed with how Philidor had promoted her work. She decided to go it alone and took her waxworks on a tour of the British Isles. Her own self-confidence was well placed and she soon shot to fame.
Today, Madame Tussauds in Baker Street is still one of the most visited attractions in the country and is owned by Merlin Entertainments. Visitors enjoy posing with Royalty, famous singers, actors and actresses, sports stars and other key figures in society. There are even waxworks of famous murderers that stay true to Marie Tussauds’ fascination with the macabre. Admiring famous waxworks is so popular, that there is more than one Madame Tussauds. There are smaller museums, operating in Europe, Asia and North America.
Aubaine is just down the street. So, after you’ve experienced the delights of Madame Tussauds, come and visit us for a bite to eat and pop into Daunt Books for a browse along the way.
Next up: The Wallace Collection