Marie Tussaud: Profiling the French wax sculptress

The Madame Tussauds brand of waxwork museums is today world famous – but who was the woman that started it all?

Marie Grosholtz was born in the French city of Strasbourg in 1761. She was married to Francois Tussaud in 1795, taking his now famous name.

During the French Revolution, she was temporarily imprisoned and later forced to prove her allegiance by making death masks of executed nobles, including the King and Queen.

Following the end of the Revolution, she inherited a wax exhibition from her former landlord Dr Philippe Curtius.

She was an apprentice to Curtius, who taught her the art of wax sculpting – a skill he used to illustrate anatomy.

In 1802, she took the exhibition to Britain and 33 years later she set up a permenant residence in Baker Street, London.

The quality of the figures reportedly increased steadily, and in an age before the internet, television and widespread photography, they attracted huge crowds.

Marie Tussaud died in 1850, but her sons continued to operate the waxworks museum, later moving it to its current position on Marylebone Road.

It is interesting to consider what she would think of the attraction – with its 4D superhero cinema, scare zone and dark ride – as it is today.