Marie Tussaud

Marie Tussaud

attributed to Francis Tussaud
chalk, circa 1842
15 in. x 11 in. (381 mm x 279 mm)
Given by the sitter's great-grandson, John Theodore Tussaud, 1924
Primary Collection
NPG 2031

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  • Marie Tussaud (1761-1850), Modeller in wax. Sitter in 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Born in Strasbourg, France, Marie Grosholtz was brought up in Switzerland and Paris. Her widowed mother was the housekeeper to Philippe Curtius, a German-born doctor and talented modeller in wax, who in 1770 opened an exhibition of life-size figures in Paris. Marie Grosholtz studied under Dr Curtius and in 1794 she inherited the wax exhibition from him. A year later she married the civil engineer Francois Tussaud. She later left her husband and, with her two young sons, moved to England where she toured her wax exhibition for thirty-three years. Madame Tussaud eventually decided to give the exhibition a permanent home in London where it still thrives. This chalk portrait of her was drawn by her younger son Francis who, with his brother Joseph, inherited the wax museum on the death of their mother in 1850.

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Events of 1842back to top

Current affairs

Edwin Chadwick publishes his damning report, Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Poor, which details the shocking living conditions of the urban poor and prompts government to take a new interest in public health issues.
A year-long depression and the rejection of the Chartist petition leads to riots, with workers striking in the Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and parts of Scotland.

Art and science

Mudie's Lending Library opens, becoming one of the largest circulating libraries in the period. Made popular by the otherwise high cost of books, it exerts a great influence over literature; both by maintaining the more costly 'three decker' novel structure, and acting as moral censor.
Richard Owen, the English biologist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist, coins the term 'dinosaur', combining the Greek words for 'formidable' and 'reptile'.


Treaty of Nanjing, which allows China to trade with Britain and lends Hong Kong to the British crown for 150 years. In Afghanistan, the Anglo-Afghan war ends as the British abandon Kabul, withdrawing to India and losing most of their garrison force in the operation with only one member, Dr William Brydon, surviving.

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