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Madame Marie Tussaud: 1761 - 1850

In 1761, Madame Tussaud was born Marie Grosholtz in Strasbourg, France. Her father, a German soldier, died in battle before her birth. By age six, Marie moved to Paris with her mother, who worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius, a doctor and wax modeler, and Marie became his protegé. In 1770, Dr. Curtius opened a museum featuring life-size wax figures that immediately became popular among Parisians and visiting royalty. In 1778, Marie had enough experience to create a wax portrait of the French writer, Voltaire. Two years later, she was appointed art tutor to Madame Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI, and lived at the magnificent Palace of Versailles for the next nine years.

She returned to Paris in 1789. Through the Revolution the Dr.Curtius and Marie generally prospered, though she was arrested and temporarily imprisoned during the Reign of Terror. Given a pardon, she was forced to pay for her freedom by making death masks of those who faced the guillotine. Among others, she modeled Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre. When Curtius died in 1794, he left his collection of waxworks to Marie. In 1795, she married François Tussaud. They had two children, Joseph and François.

In 1802, Marie Tussaud went to London together with Joseph, then four years old, her husband and her other son staying behind. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, she was unable to return to France, so she traveled with her collection throughout Great Britain and Ireland. In 1821 or 1822, her other son, François, joined her. In 1835, she established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street, on the "Baker Street Bazaar". In 1838, she wrote her memoirs. In 1842, she made a self-portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. Some of the sculptures done by Tussaud herself still exist.

Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now grown to become one of the major tourist attractions in London, and has expanded with branches in Amsterdam, Hong Kong (Victoria Peak), Las Vegas, Shanghai, Berlin, Washington D.C.,New York City, and Hollywood.

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