Elaine's Reviews > Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
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Aug 25, 2012

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Anna Maria Tussaud was born in Strasbourg on 1 December 1761; her father, a soldier named Joseph Grosholtz, was killed in the Seven Years' War just two months before Marie was born. Her mother then became a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Bern. There she took the Swiss nationality.

Curtius was a physician, and was skilled in wax modelling, which he used to illustrate anatomy. Later, he started to do portraits. Tussaud called him uncle. Curtius moved to Paris in 1765, starting work to set up a cabinet de cire (wax exhibition).In that year he made a waxwork of Louis XV's last mistress, Madame du Barry, a cast of which is the oldest work currently on display. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling; she showed a lot of talent and started to work for him. In 1777, she created her first wax figure, that of Voltaire. She later modelled other famous personages, such as Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.

Tussaud became involved in the French Revolution and met many of its important figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robespierre.

Tussaud was arrested during the Reign of Terror together with Joséphine de Beauharnais (leter married to Napolean); her head was shaved in preparation for execution by guillotine. But thanks to Collot d'Herbois's support for Curtius and his household, she was released Tussaud was employed to make death masks of the victims of the guillotine, including some of the revolution's most infamous dead such as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, Duc d'Orleans (King's brother), Madame du Berry (King Louis XV mistress) and Robespierre. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris. Soon, Madame Tussaud was searching through sanitaries collecting the most illustrious heads she could find.

She was also tutor-friend to Madame Elizabeth, the king's siste who was also beheaded. Louis XVII died in prison at age 10.

When Curtius died in 1794, he left his collection of wax works to Marie. In 1795, she married François Tussaud, whom she met in jail. They had two children, Joseph and François. Marie is now known as Madame Tussaud.

In 1802, Marie went to London where she was reunited with her fiance, Henri Charles.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 she established her first permanent exhibition in Baker Street, on the upper floor of 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.

She died in her sleep in London on 16 April 1850 at the age of 88. There is a memorial tablet to Madame Marie Tussaud on the right side of the nave of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan Street, London

Tuileries where the royal family was first kept was built by Catherine d' Medici after henry II died.

10,00 people lived at Versailles

500,000 people died during the French Revolution.

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