In the second half of the 18th century, wax figures became popular. In Paris, several merchants made effigies of current celebrities or great men. At this time, photography still did not exist! These representations were reputed to be uncanny lookalikes, especially when they were sculpted from life, based on living models or death masks. The most famous among them was Philippe Mathé-Curtz, otherwise known as Curtius, who owned two stores, the first in the Palais-Royal and the second, here, on the Boulevard du Temple. Here, he exhibited the busts of famous philosophers like Voltaire or Rousseau, as well as the famous American revolutionary Benjamin Franklin.
Before opening her famous museum in London, Madame Tussaud, née Marie Grosholz, trained in Paris at Curtius’s waxworks. It was during the French Revolution, after Curtius died, that she inherited his wax museum. Here, she presented wax models of several revolutionaries like the journalist Hébert, as well as Carrier, the deputy responsible for the Vendée massacres, or Fouquier-Tinville, the prosecutor of the Paris Revolutionary Tribunal…or even reproductions of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s decapitated heads! In 1802, Madame Tussaud went to England with her wax figures. In 1835, she opened her “Chamber of Horrors,” in which she represented the bloodiest aspects of the French Revolution.