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Madam Tussaud's Museum

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To be immortalized forever in wax you don’t need to be a Queen or a politician, you just need to be a celebrity with a pulling power.

In fact, there is a great number of wax works exhibitions in our county and abroad. Wax personalities attract millions of visitors all over the world. It’s an open secret that a transnational entertaining company Tussaud’s Group is at the top of the list.

During my summer trip to St. Petersburg I also visited some wax – works exhibitions. Two of them were really fascinating and worth seeing. But I was also disappointed to discover that there is too much hackwork at this field. All this aroused my particular interest in wax sculpture and made me investigate the subject deeper. The aim of my work is to research the history of the matter, to reveal the facts of Madame Tussaud’s life and to trace the development of Wax Works Museum into the world’s biggest entertaining centre Tussaud’s Group.

This written work can be used at English lessons and world art lessons, as well as at extra curricular, devoted to great personalities. I’m sure it will help to broaden the student’s outwork.

How It All Began

First it was a living newspaper, then a History textbook, London’s visit card, a movie theatre, a restaurant and even a planetarium. Today Madame Tussaud’s Wax Works Museum is the most visited tourist attraction in the world. Its founder, Madame Tussaud is considered to be the first business lady in the world’s history and is called a grandmother of modern show – business.

At the beginning of the 17th century Europe was captured by fashion on wax portrait sculptures. Although thy were not so long – living and tough as those made of marble and bronze, they were at greater demand as more realistic and cheaper. And it made them available not only for merchants and aristocrats but for the common citizens as well. And they wanted to remain in their grandchildren’s memories.

Madame Tussaud and Her Museum

The story of Madame Tussaud is as fascinating as that of the exhibition itself. Two things of her life are especially noteworthy. First, she spent her early years during the French Revolution and came to meet many of the characters involved. Second, and perhaps more unusually, she succeeded in business at time when women were rarely involved in the world of commerce.

Madame Tussaud was born in Strasbourg in 1761 and christened Marie Grosholtz. Her father, a soldier, was killed in a battle during the Seven Years War only two months before Marie’s birth. Her mother was a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius, a skilled wax sculptor. From the earliest childhood Marie learnt modelling techniques with Dr. Curtius. Just before the French Revolution they moved to Paris.

At that time Marie’s talent became apparent and he was invited to the royal court to assist in the artistic education of the King Loui XVI’s sister, Madame Elizabeth. Life in Versallies was vivid contrast to Marie’s pervious existence. The capital became a centre chaotic activity; no one was safe, and at one time both Marie and her mother were imprisoned. But they were not executed, and nobody knew why. Long before Marie was asked to prepare the death masks of many of her former employers after they had been executed – among them Marie Antoinette, Lois XVI, Jean Paul Marat, the philosopher and revolutionary. This portrait, along with many others modelled by Marie, is still on display today.

In 1794 Cutius died, and Marie inherited the business, which was grown under her influence. In the following year she married a French engineer, Francois Tussaud, and gave birth to three children: a daughter, who died, and two sons.

France was still suffering, enormous deprivation, and Marie’s exhibiton was struggling to survive. In 1802 Marie made a monumental decision. She would leave her husband and her baby son, Francis, in Paris, while she and her elder son, Joseph, would tour to the exhibition round the British Isles.

Marie was to see neither France nor her husband again. She spent the next 33 years travelling around the British Isles, exhibiting her growing collection of figures to crowds of curious and intrigued spectators. Joseph (her elder son) accompanied her, taking a keen interest in the craft of making wax figures Soon his brother Francis joined them.

In the days before television, cinema and radio Madame Tussaud’s figures ere sensation. Week after week the figures of Lord Byron, the murders Burke and Hare, King George IV, Queen Carline of Brunswik, Shakespeare and the death mask of Emperor Napoleon – among many others – were packed and unpacked to be shown to an admiring public.

The travels ended in 1835, when Madame Tussaud’s exhibition found a permanent home. It was in London, not far from today’s exhibition.

Another interesting development of the period was the establishment of what was to become the Chamber of Horrors. Madame Tussaud’s collection of the victims and perpetrators of violent punishment and murders and miscreants was an unquestionable success.

Madame Tussaud was actively involved in the exhibition almost to the end of her life. This would be a remarkable feat even now, and was particularly unusual for a woman in the 19th century. In April 1850, at the age of 89, she died. Her final work – a remarkable self – portrait modelling eight years before her death – can still be seen today.

There are some interesting facts about her museum. In 1925 an electrical fault sparked a fire, which, despite the efforts of Madame Tussaud’s own firefighters and the London Fire Brigade, soon raged out of the control. Many of the figures were destroyed. But in 1928 the interior had been reconstructed, this time with the addition of a cinema and restaurant.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, in 1939, all of Britain was threatened by enemy action - not least London. During the night of the 8th of September 1940, Madame Tussaud’s was struck by a heavy bomb, which inflicted significant damage. Some 352 head moulds were damaged beyond repair and the cinema was completely destroyed – although, thankfully, no lives were lost. In December of that same year the exhibition again opened its doors to the public.

And now I’d like to dwell upon some studio secrets of Madame Tussaud’s Museum.

Studio Secrets

Modelling methods at Madame Tussaud’s have not changed in 200 years. Once a person has been chosen, the firs step is to collect preliminary information – press photographs and articles if the subject is alive, portraits in other media and biographies if dead. Then it must be decided in which part of the exhibition the figure is to be placed, what the pose it should be and its relationship to other wax portraits.

The sculptor is normally given a sitting with the subject when detailed photographs are taken, hair and eyes are matched and clothes noted. The sculptor not only takes precire measurements, such as dimensions of ears and nostrils, but also has the opportunity to observe the character and personality of the subject, which will be conveyed as modelling progresses.

Sittings usually take place at Madame Tussaud’s studious although, on occasion, the sculptor will visit the subject. Nelson Mandela gave a sitting at the Post House Hotel near Heathrow Airport, during a busy schedule which included a television interview. He later visited Madame Tussaud’s with the late ANC leader Oliver Tambo to unveil the figure.

Sylvester Stallone’s sitting was as the MGM Studious in Holywood, and he presented Madam Tussaud’s with his own full set of evening clothes.

Madame Tussaud’s sculptors never take life casts. Hands, however, are regularly moulded from life and cast in wax.

It takes about six months to complete a figure, most of which is spent on the portrait head. Working from the reference material acquired at the sitting, the sculptor begins by modelling the head in clay. At this stage the hair is also sculpted, but this will later be replaced by real hair. Despite the extensive use of careful measurements, a great deal of artistry is required to achieve a realistic portrait. The body is built up in clay on to an armature.

When the sculptor is happy with the clay model, a mould of approximately 12 separate pieces is taken from the head. After meticulous cleaning, the saturated, warm plaster head mould is filled with molten wax. When a sufficient thickness has solidified, the still molten centre is poured away. The head mould is made of a plaster of sufficient quality and fitness to reproduce exactly the surface of the clay, and can be used several times. The plaster pieces are removed from the head, and the wax cast is allowed to cool slowly, wrapped in cloth.

Entertaining and Amazing People

Figures are made 2% bigger than real life because wax shrinks. The wax used for the figures is similar to candle wax. In the more thrifty past, wax figures were melted down and re – used, but this is no longer the case as the color of the wax deteriorates when recycled. Each figure weights about 15 kg – with 4.5 kg of wax used for the head and 1.4 kg for the hands.

Over 150 precise measurements are taken to create an accurate portrait. Each hair is to be individually inserted, taking about five weeks.

All the figures regularly have their hair washed and styled like anyone else would at a hairdresser’s. By the way, all vital statistics are accurate and kept under lock and key by Madame Tussaud’s. Despite repeated requests from the press, this information is never disclosed.

The characters who move and speak are modelled in clay first of all, like the normal portraits, but the head is made in silicon rubber which allows movement.

A spokesperson for Madame Tussaud’s says men and women like different figures. The figure most photographed by men is Naomi Campbell, and the most photographed by women is Brad Pitt.

However, the attention from the public isn’t always friendly – for instance, Hitler had to be put behind in the Chamber of Horrors because people couldn’t stop abusing him. By the way, research by Madame Tussaud’s has revealed that women are stronger than men. In a recent study they discovered that Chamber of Horrors is twice as popular among women as among men!

Developing Business

Ringing in the changes

Since it opened in 1835 Madame Tussauds has constantly worked to introduce new attractions over the years.

One of the most recent changes has seen the prominent displays of pop singers, TV stars and movie icons replacing the traditional royals, historical figures and politicians.

Customer needs

Customer feedback has dictated the recent changes as visitors no longer expressed an interest in seeing men in suits expecting to see instead current celebrities and wanting interactive exhibitions.

The royals haven't been replaced completely you can still see the Queen but instead of seeing her from behind a rope you can have a royal audience escorted by guardsmen.

The UK's top personality

7 Sir Elton John has been unveiled as the UK's favourite personality and cast in chocolate! A life size chocolate figure of Sir Elton has been made to celebrate Cadbury's Centenary.

People had the chance to vote from a top ten list that consisted of:

• five TV personalities (Cat Deeley, Denise Van Outen, Jonathan Ross, Ricky Gervais and Sharon Osbourne)

• three sports personalities (David Beckham, Denise Lewis and Paula Radcliffe)

• two singers (Sir Elton John and Will Young)

The figure which weighs 126kgs can be viewed in Madame Tussaud’s until Autumn in a special tent that stops it from melting.

Popular British culture

You can get up close and personal with celebrities like Simon Cowell made famous by UK reality TV show 'Pop Idol' you can try to impress him with your vocal talents and then listen to his comments.

The system you sing into tells how in tune you are and dictates his comments from his trademark put downs to the very rare praise.

Pop and movie stars

If you want more than TV personalities you can rub shoulders or chests with the cream of Hollywood, Brad Pitt. You can stroke his silicon chest – it may be the closest you ever get to doing it. Or if you would rather you can dance with pop princess Britney Spears and her backing dancers while Britney is all wax the dancers are real creating a unique experience.

How much do they cost?

Beyonce Knowles, singer with the girl group Destiny’s Child, was mmortalized in 2004 at a cost of £52,000 complete in the orange and pink Versace dress she wore in her music video ‘Crazy in love’ as part of the Diva’s exhibition.

The interactive features and celebrity wax works are helping Madame Tussauds remain a world famous tourist attraction that celebrities want to be part of and people want to visit.


And now I’d like to present the full history of Madame Tussaud’s in brief.

FRANCE, 1770-1802

Through talent and determination, a young girl named Marie Grosholz came to be numbered among the most famous of English institutions.

1761 - Marie Grosholz, later known as Madame Tussaud, is born in Strasbourg.

1770 - Marie's mother's employer, a doctor called Philippe Curtius, opens an exhibition of life-size wax figures at the Palais Royale in Paris. Marie learns the art of wax modelling from him.

1777 - Marie models the famous author and philosopher, Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire.

1780 - Marie becomes art tutor to King Louis XVI's sister and goes to live at the royal court in Versailles.

1789 - The outbreak of the French Revolution. - Marie returns to Paris, later helping Curtius to mould the heads of some of the guillotine's victims – among them her Versailles acquaintances.


1794 - Marie Grosholz inherits Curtius's collection of figures.

1795 - She marries François Tussaud, an engineer, but leaves him eight years later to bring the collection on a tour of the British Isles.


For the next 33 years, she lives the exhausting and precarious life of a travelling showman, moving from town to town with her caravans, organising advertising, and encouraging newspaper anecdotes, or organising charity benefits to bring in useful patrons.

She suffers shipwreck in the Irish Sea, and fire during the Bristol Riots of 1831. Yet, throughout the travelling years, new figures are constantly introduced.

1835 - Madame Tussaud’s settles into a permanent home in The Bazaar, Baker Street, London.

"Visitors entering the Bazaar from Baker Street proceed to a saloon richly decorated with mirrored embellishments. Here sits an aged lady, with an accent which proclaims her Gallic origins. Were she motionless, you would take her for a piece of waxwork. This is Madame Tussaud, a lady who is in herself an Exhibition." [from an 1842 guidebook]

1846 - Punch Magazine coins the name "Chamber of Horrors" for Madame Tussaud’s separate room where gruesome relics of the French Revolution are displayed.

1850 - Madame Tussaud dies. In her old age, supported by two sons, she had achieved great success. She had resisted a U.S. buy-out, her memoirs had been published, and her portrait was painted by a court painter. She had been immortalised by Dickens (as Mrs Jarley) and caricatured by Cruikshank.


1884 - Madame Tussaud’s grandson, Joseph Randall, directs the move to the present site in Marylebone Road.


1925 - Fire guts the whole building, destroying not only almost all the wax figures and their costumes, but priceless furnishings, paintings and relics too.

Fortunately, many of the old head moulds were saved, and from these the Exhibition was rebuilt, opening 3 years later with the addition of a large Cinema and Restaurant.


1940 - A German bomb destroys the Cinema. Ironically, the figure of Hitler is one of the few figures to survive unscathed.

1958 - Madame Tussaud’s opens the Commonwealth's first Planetarium on the site of the old cinema.

1971 - A new Madame Tussaud’s opens its doors in the Kalverstraat, Amsterdam, returning to the continent for the first time since 1817.

1981 - Madame Tussaud’s Amsterdam expands their collection and moves to celebrated Dam Square right in the heart of the city.

1993 - The Spirit of London, a spectacular animatronic ride, arrives at Madame Tussaud’s.

1995 - The London Planetarium is re-opened after a £4.5 million redevelopment, including the installation of the world-leading Digistar II Star Projector.

1996 - A bigger, better, more chilling than ever Chamber of Horrors is opened at Madame Tussaud’s, London.

1999 - Madame Tussaud’s opens in Las Vegas featuring American superstars and Hollywood legends.

2000 - Madame Tussaud’s New York opens, featuring the city's 'Movers and Shakers', alongside a whole world of stars.
Madame Tussaud’s opens in Hong Kong featuring over 100 wax figures of internationally-known personalities and local celebrities

2002 - Madame Tussaud’s starts to introduce exciting new interactive attractions where guests get to feel what it is like to be famous. In the ‘Goal!’ attraction guests step into the moment when David Beckham prepares to take the 93rd minute free kick that leads England into the World Cup - his figure is created with a beating heart.

After a sitting at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II’s 22nd figure is created for a Golden Jubilee attraction at Madame Tussaud’s. The ropes surrounding the Royal Family are taken away forever as guests are invited to have a personal ‘Audience with The Queen.’

2003 – Tussaud’s collaborates with Disney to create a Treasure Planetarium attraction, and with Universal Pictures to create The Hulk attraction.
The Chamber-Live! gives a new injection of fear to the Chamber Of Horrors.

2004 - More new interactive attractions open; In ‘Divas’, starring Beyonce, Britney and Kylie, guests are taught dance moves and perform on stage with feedback on their performance from Beyonce via video link.

‘Bollywood for Beginners’ opens with the new figure of Aishwariya Rai and guests get to perform in a scene from the film ‘Bride & Predjudice’.
‘Marry me George’ sees guests getting the chance to have a dinner date with Mr Clooney and trying out their best chat-up lines – they are rewarded with either diamond engagement ring or the bill for dinner!

2005 - Madame Tussaud’s gets rocking with a new show ‘Air Guitar Star’ starring The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins. Guests are taught air guitar moves and battle it out to become the top Rock God!

Guests are invited to try and put a twinkle in the eye of the new Robbie Williams figure, made because the previous figure was literally ‘worn out’ from the over-attention of eager fans!


In conclusion I’d like to say that working at my report I discovered a lot of astonishing details about the past and present of the museum. It was interesting to learn about opening the Planetarium, moving images and animatronic ride “The Spirit of London”. I could hardly imagine that there are even speaking wax figures and that visitors can freely interact with them – dance, sing, play and what not! I was also impressed reading about Studio Secrets; the process of making wax sculpture is a real art! And can you imagine that each hair is inserted individually and it takes five weeks? And of course it was a surprise for me to follow wonderful changes and how the museum gradually turned into a great international complex Tussaud’s Group!

I can’t but say I highly appreciate Marie Grosholz, or Madame Tussaud. I admire this talented strong, courageous and enthusiastic business lady. I’m sure her life and the history of the Museum can serve a brilliant example for business people how to develop and expand one’s business. And without any doubts she would be proud to see the fantastic changes of her creation!

My report is supported with a video “Madame Tussaud’s Museum”, which was really helpful. I got a vivid picture of the Museum and watched the process of wax figure – making in a mould studio, as if I have visited it myself.

I wish I could drop in a chilling Chamber of Horrors, or come to a life size chocolate figure of Sir Elton John and smell it! And it would be nice to watch David Beckham taking his free kick and listen to his beating heart!

I wonder if there is wax Marilyn Manson there. It would be great!


  • Studio Secrets booklet, copyright M. Tussaud’s Limited, 1993, produced by Big Design, London, p. 49 - 50

  • World Business Legends magazine, 4, 2004

  • Uchitelskaya Gazeta, Olga Dmitrieva (www.ug.ru)

  • Stories To Enjoy (intermediate), Moscow, “Manager” p. 111-113

  • Speak Out Magazine 6, 2004, p. 8 – 9

  • Wax Works Museum, A. Greiser, Ekaterinburg, p. 86 – 89

  • Video “Madam Tussaud’s Museum” \ “Waking Around London”



How It All Began

Madam Tussaud’s and Her Museum

Studio Secrets

Entertaining and Amazing People

Developing Business




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