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Madame Tussaud and the History of Waxwork

Madame Tussaud and the History of Waxwork (Paperback)

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The success of Madame Tussaud's, from its beginnings in Paris before the French Revolution to its prolonged fame as a popular tourist attraction in London, bears out the fascination of waxworks. Yet Madame Tussaud was by no means the inventor of wax figures or their only exhibitor. Wax heads and models had been used since Roman times and were used for saints' statues by the Catholic Church and for anatomical teaching. There were also many rival shows, often travelling from town to town, as Tussaud's did for its first thirty years in England. Pamela Pilbeam sees Madame Tussaud herself and her exhibition as part of the wider history of wax modelling and of popular entertainment. Tussaud's catered for the public's fascination with monarchy, whether Henry VIII and his wives or Queen Victoria, as well as for their love of history, acting as an accessible and enjoyable museum (but also providing the perennial fascination of the Chamber of Horrors.)

Pamela Pilbeam is the author of The Middle Classes in Europe, 1789-1914. She is Professor of French Histoory at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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