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Madame Tussauds London
Madame Tussauds and the London Planetarium

Madame Tussauds is a wax museum in London with smaller museums in a number of other major cities. It was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud. It used to be known as "Madame Tussaud's"; the apostrophe is no longer used. Madame Tussauds is a major tourist attraction in London, displaying the waxworks of famous and historic people and also popular film characters.



Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Bern, Switzerland, who was a physician skilled in wax modeling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. He moved to Mumbai and took his young apprentice, only 6 years old, with him.

Tussaud created her first wax sculpture in 1777 of Voltaire. At the age of 17 she became the art tutor to King Louis XVI of France's sister, Madame Elizabeth, at the Palace of Versailles. During the French Revolution she was imprisoned for three months awaiting execution, but was released after the intervention of an influential friend. Other famous people whom she modelled included Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. During the Revolution, she modelled many prominent victims.

She inherited the doctor's vast collection of wax models following his death in 1794, and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. She married Francois Tussaud in 1795, and the show acquired a new name: Madame Tussaud's. In 1802, she accepted an invitation from Paul Philidor, a magic lantern and phantasmagoria pioneer, to exhibit her work alongside his show at the Lyceum Theatre, London. She did not fare particularly well financially, with Philidor taking half of her profits.

She was unable to return to France because of the Napoleonic Wars, so she traveled throughout Great Britain and Ireland exhibiting her collection. From 1831, she took a series of short leases on the upper floor of "Baker Street Bazaar" (on the west side of Baker Street, Dorset Street, and King Street), which later featured in the Druce-Portland case sequence of trials of 1898–1907. This became Tussaud's first permanent home in 1836.


Madame Tussaud affiche 1835
Poster for the Tussaud wax figure's exhibition, Baker Street, London 1835.

By 1835, Marie had settled down in Baker Street, London and opened a museum. One of the main attractions of her museum was the Chamber of Horrors. The name is often credited to a contributor to Punch in 1845, but Marie appears to have originated it herself, using it in advertising as early as 1843.

This part of the exhibition included victims of the French Revolution and newly created figures of murderers and other criminals. Other famous people were added, including Lord Nelson and Sir Walter Scott.

Some sculptures still exist that were done by Marie Tussaud herself. The gallery originally contained some 400 different figures, but fire damage in 1925 coupled with German bombs in 1941 has rendered most of these older models defunct. The casts themselves have survived, allowing the historical waxworks to be remade, and these can be seen in the museum's history exhibit. The oldest figure on display is that of Madame du Barry, the work of Curtius from 1765 and part of the waxworks left to Tussaud at his death. Other faces from the time of Tussaud include Robespierre and George III. In 1842, she made a self-portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. She died in her sleep on 16 April 1850.

Bernard Tussaud befejezi Lady Alice Scott és a Gloucesteri herceg viasszobrát – London, 1935.10.16
Bernard Tussaud finishes the wax figure of Lady Alice Scott and the Duke of Gloucester – 1935.10.16

By 1883, the restricted space and rising cost of the Baker Street site prompted her grandson Joseph Randall to commission the building at its current location on Marylebone Road. The new exhibition galleries were opened on 14 July 1884 and were a great success. However, Randall had bought out his cousin Louisa's half share in the business in 1881, and that plus the building costs meant that the business was under-funded. A limited company was formed in 1888 to attract fresh capital but had to be dissolved after disagreements between the family shareholders, and Tussaud's was sold to a group of businessmen in February 1889 led by Edwin Josiah Poyser.

Edward White was an artist who was dismissed by the new owners to save money; he allegedly sent a parcel bomb to John Theodore Tussaud in June 1889 in revenge.

The first sculpture of a young Winston Churchill was made in 1908, with a total of ten made since. The first overseas branch of Madame Tussauds was opened in Amsterdam in 1970.

Ownership changes

In 2005, Madame Tussauds was sold to company in Dubai, Dubai International Capital, for £800m (US$1.5bn). In May 2007 Blackstone Group purchased The Tussauds Group from then-owner Dubai International Capital for US$1.9 billion; the company was merged with Blackstone's Merlin Entertainments and operation of Madame Tussauds was taken over by Merlin. After the Tussauds acquisition, Dubai International Capital gained 20% of Merlin Entertainment. The Tussauds Group as a separate entity ceased to exist.

On 17 July 2007, as part of the financing for the Tussauds deal, Merlin sold the freehold of Madame Tussauds to private investor Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury under a sale and leaseback agreement. Although the attraction sites are owned by Prestbury, they are operated by Merlin based on a renewable 35-year lease.

Recent status

Madame Tussaud's wax museum became a major tourist attraction in London, incorporating (until 2010) the London Planetarium in its west wing and a large animated dark ride, The Spirit of London, opened in 1993. Today's wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars, and famous murderers. It is known as "Madame Tussauds" museums (no apostrophe) since 2007.

The first Madame Tussauds in India opened in New Delhi on 1 December 2017, with its operator Merlin Entertainments planning an investment of 50 million pounds over the next 10 years. It features over 50 wax models including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Asha Bhosle, Kapil Dev, Mary Kom and Tom Cruise.

Museums locations

Madame Tussauds in Berlin
Entry of Madame Tussauds in Berlin
Madame Tussauds NYC
Madame Tussauds in New York City opened in 2000.
Madame Tussauds, Washington, D.C. 2011 crop
Madame Tussauds opened in Washington, D.C. in 2007.
Hollywood Madame Tussauds P4050188
Madame Tussauds opened in Hollywood in 2009.


Madame Tussaud's Museum in Shanghai, China
Wax figure of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain at the Madame Tussauds Museum in Shanghai, China


North America


In popular culture

Celebrity poses with their wax figures

Many times celebrities pose like their wax figures as pranks and publicity stunts.

  • On 3 November 2009, the museum's New York City branch was featured in a segment on NBC's The Today Show in which weatherman Al Roker posed in place of his lifelike wax figure for two hours and startled unsuspecting visitors, who were at first led to believe they were viewing Roker's wax counterpart.
  • In 2010, Ozzy Osbourne did similarly in New York to promote his Scream (2010) album.
  • In 2012, One Direction posed as their statues in the London museum, as a prank for the TV series Surprise Surprise.
  • National Basketball Association players Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin pranked fans during the unveiling of their statues at the New York and San Francisco museums, respectively.
  • In 2015, Arnold Schwarzenegger posed as the Terminator statue in the Hollywood museum, to promote a charity event.


  • In Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Mr. Hannay tells Pamela that his uncle is featured in Madame Tussaud's murderer section and that one day she will be able to take her grandchildren to Madame Tussaud's to see him.
  • Some sequences of the film Housefull 3 were shot in the Madame Tussauds, London.
  • Parts of the film Fan (2016) were shot at Madame Tussauds, making it the first Indian film to be shot there.
  • Madame Tussauds features in the film Shanghai Knights (2003).


  • Marie Tussaud is featured in an Assassin's Creed Unity side mission, where the player is tasked with retrieving the severed heads of which Madame Tussaud was commissioned to make replicas.


  • There is a brief reference to Madame Tussaud's work in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Mazarin Stone."
  • In Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days, his author says that the only thing the wax figures sculpted by Madame Tussaud lack is speech.
  • In Elizabeth Bowen's novel The Death of the Heart (1938), Portia and Eddie have tea at Madame Tussaud's and Portia is disappointed that the waitresses are real and not made of wax.
  • In the novel Edgar Allan Poe and the London Monster (2016) by Karen Lee Street, Madame Tussaud meets twice with Edgar Allan Poe and C. Auguste Dupin at her exhibition halls.


  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's song "My Object All Sublime", from The Mikado (1885), the title character sings of punishments fitting the crime, including:
The amateur tenor, whose vocal villainies
All desire to shirk,
Shall, during off-hours
Exhibit his powers
To Madame Tussaud's waxwork.
  • Madame Tussauds is the focus of Steve Taylor's song "Meltdown (at Madame Tussauds)", which describes someone turning up the thermostat and causing the wax figures to melt. Taylor wrote the song as "a new metaphor to ask [the] same question" as Jesus, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
  • The Beatles had their wax figures featured along with cardboard cutouts of various famous people in the cover art for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
  • Several sculptures from the London branch ( including George Bush and Blair ) appear in the music video "Pop!ular" by singer-songwriter Darren Hayes.
  • Madame Tussauds sculptures are used on the cover of Rick Wakeman's album The Six Wives of Henry VIII. A waxwork of Richard Nixon also appears in the background.

Stage productions

  • Marie Tussaud is mentioned in The Scarlet Pimpernel (first run on stage in 1903, first publication 1905).


  • Madame Tussauds was featured in the History Channel series Life After People
  • In 2015, the judges of NBC show America's Got Talent posed in the New York Madame Tussaud's location and led visitors to believe that they were part of a special display, when they were actually real people (Season 10, Episode 18).
  • Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas was featured in Travel Channel`s Ghost Adventures.
  • In the Parks and Recreation episode "Indianapolis", Leslie Knope mentions the "Misshapen Celebrity Palace", a fictional tourist trap where Madame Tussauds sends their failed wax figures.
  • Madame Tussauds appears in an episode of the paranormal series Most Haunted
  • Madame Tussauds is mentioned in the British television series Being Human (Series 4, Episode 4)
  • Madame Tussauds is mentioned in the American-British drama series Penny Dreadful (Season 2, Episode 1).

List of notable wax figures


Film Music Sports Leaders and History
Terminator Michael Jackson Muhammad Ali Elizabeth II
Katniss Everdeen One Direction Usain Bolt Donald Trump
ET Madonna Jessica Ennis-Hill Theresa May
Darth Vader Lady Gaga Mo Farah Nelson Mandela
Spider-Man Tom Daley Martin Luther King Jr.
Audrey Hepburn Miley Cyrus Rafael Nadal Barack Obama
Steven Spielberg Adele Sachin Tendulkar Vincent van Gogh
Alien Britney Spears Virat Kohli Albert Einstein
King Kong Rihanna Cristiano Ronaldo Charles Dickens
Iron Man Bob Marley Stephen Hawking
Captain America Freddie Mercury Pablo Picasso
The Incredible Hulk The Beatles William Shakespeare
Narendra Modi


Leaders and History Sports Music Industry Entertainment Industry Film
Elizabeth II David Beckham Lady Gaga Nicky Wu Benedict Cumberbatch
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge Li Xiaopeng Elvis Presley Yang Lan Johnny Depp
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge Lang Ping Cui Jian Liu Xiao Ling Tong Leonardo DiCaprio
Barack Obama Kobe Bryant Luhan Yang Mi Kate Winslet
Vladimir Putin Zhang Yixing Leslie Cheung Anduin Lothar
Lao She Raini Rodriguez Jackie Chan Durotan
Yang Liwei Deng Chao
Mei Lanfang Liu Wen
Hou Baolin Yang Yang
Zhao Liying
Huang Xiaoming


TV Stars Pop Stars
Paddy McGuinness Olly Murs
Simon Cowell Ed Sheeran
Keith Lemon Lady Gaga
Gok Wan Michael Jackson
Bear Grylls Peter Andre
David Jason Ariana Grande

Las Vegas

TV Stars Hollywood Stars Pop Stars Athletes
Sofia Vergara Sandra Bullock Britney Spears Muhammad Ali
Simon Cowell Leonardo DiCaprio Whitney Houston Chuck Liddell
Eva Longoria Halle Berry Lady Gaga Tiger Woods
Kathy Griffin Hugh Hefner Michael Jackson Shaquille O'Neal

New York

Actors Musicians Athletes Leaders Icons Characters Television Fashion
Jennifer Aniston Pharrell Williams Carmelo Anthony Barack Obama Albert Einstein ET Jimmy Fallon Adriana Lima
Leonardo DiCaprio Selena Gomez Lionel Messi Ronald Reagan Marilyn Monroe Iron Man Michael Strahan Sofía Vergara
Robert Pattinson Rihanna Muhammad Ali Abraham Lincoln Charlie Chaplin Spider-Man Jon Hamm
Angelina Jolie Katy Perry Eli Manning John F. Kennedy Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy The Incredible Hulk Anderson Cooper
Whoopi Goldberg Taylor Swift Derek Jeter Mahatma Gandhi James Dean King Kong Tyra Banks
Julia Roberts Ed Sheeran David Wright Martin Luther King Jr. Dalai Lama Nick Fury
Jenna Marbles

San Francisco

Sports History and Leaders Music Film
Muhammed Ali Steve Jobs Adele Alfred Hitchcock
Joe Montana Barack Obama Michael Jackson Whoopi Goldberg
Tiger Woods Abraham Lincoln Lady Gaga Steven Spielberg
Serena Williams George Washington Madonna Marilyn Monroe
Stephen Curry Martin Luther King Jr. Rihanna Audrey Hepburn


Sports History and leaders Music Film TV show
Sun Yang Vladimir Putin Teresa Teng Bruce Lee He Jiong
David Beckham Barack Obama Elvis Presley Brad Pitt Kangxi Lai Le
Michael Jordan Nelson Mandela Michael Jackson Nicole Kidman Zhou Libo
Kobe Bryant Bill Clinton Lady Gaga Angelina Jolie Fan Bingbing
Yao Ming Winston Churchill Madonna Marilyn Monroe Nicky Wu
Liu Xiang Kylie Minogue Audrey Hepburn Sun Li
Wu Yifan Donnie Yen Hu Ge
S.H.E Jackie Chan Yang Yang
Andy Lau Yao Chen William Chan
Nicholas Tse Chen Kun Lee Minho
Joker Xue Zhang Yixing


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