We all know about the worldwide name Madame Tussauds but how many of us have heard of Marie Grosholtz a.k.a Marie Tussaud? The woman who kept the foundation of an international phenomenon 250 years ago, didn’t give into the hardships of life and made a name that lives on…
As Madame Tussauds prepares to open its doors in India for the first time, it is interesting to delve into its remarkable success history that stemmed from a woman’s life struggle and courage to lead an extraordinary life, that too as a single mother.
Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in December 1761 in France. She was taught the art of creating wax statues by Dr. Philippe Curtius, an employer of her mother. Her moments of fame began as early as in her teens when she was sculpting some of the 18th Century’s known faces for Curtius’ Paris exhibition.
Her worked had impressed the Royals of Paris then. She served as a tutor to King’s sister for nine years and lived at the Royal Court of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Her relationship with the Royal family was at target during the French Revolution in 1789. She was imprisoned and was to be beheaded but she survived. However she was made to prove her loyalty towards the Revolution by retrieving the heads of the executed and preparing their wax death masks, including those of King Louis and Marie Antoinette’s.
When Curtuis died, Marie inherited his wax exhibition. She married civil engineer Francois Tussaud in 1795 over a pre-nuptial deal to protect her growing assets. By 1800, she had two young children but her marriage failed. Marie left her husband and France in 1802 and decided to take the exhibition out of the country.
For over 30 years, Marie Tussaud toured her exhibition around Britain and began to add topical figures. Her show was an instant hit wherever she visited. People flocked to see her revolutionary relics and get up and close with the wax statues of the biggest names of the day from Napoleon to The Duke of Wellington to Royal Families of Europe. She used to advertise that her travelling exhibition would close a week early to encourage early footfalls and then keep the door open ‘due to popular demand’.
The attraction finally found its base in London in 1835 and has occupied the Marylebone Road site since 1884.
Marie worked hard to make her business even more popular through interesting handbills and newspaper advertisements. She now had the support of her two sons – Joseph and Francis.
Marie remained involved in the business almost to the end of her life. And as the irony has it, her last work was a self-portrait at the age of 81 and she left the world eight years later in 1850.
Her sculpting techniques have never been bettered and passed faithfully down. The skills she perfected as a young woman in Revolutionary France are the skills still employed by the Madame Tussauds sculptors today.
250 years after her birth, the story and legacy of Madame Marie Tussaud lives on and her historic creation remains a world famous attraction for visitors every year.