Kate Berridge Madame Tussaud: A Life in Wax

ISBN 13: 9780060528478

Madame Tussaud: A Life in Wax

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9780060528478: Madame Tussaud: A Life in Wax

Millions have visited the museums that bear her name, yet few know much about Madame Tussaud. A celebrated artist, she had both a ringside seat at and a cameo role in the French Revolution. This intelligent, pragmatic businesswoman has also had an extraordinary impact on contemporary culture, planting the seed of our obsession with celebrity.

In Madame Tussaud Kate Berridge tells this fascinating woman's complete story for the first time, drawing upon a wealth of sources including Tussaud's memoirs and historical archives. It is a grand-scale success story—how with sheer graft and grit a woman born in 1761 to an eighteen-year-old cook overcame extraordinary reversals of fortune to build the first and most enduring worldwide brand identified simply by reference to its founder's name: Madame Tussaud's.

Central to her success was her status as a victim and survivor of one of the most tumultuous times in history; her grizzly relics both captivated her audience and reinforced her own version of her life story. Her memoirs placed claims of friendships with royals and revolutionaries—including Marie Antoinette and Marat—alongside personal horrors, most famously how she was forced to make death masks from the guillotine-fresh heads of former friends. But as a born entrepreneur did she extend her flair for publicity to molding her own story?

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About the Author:

Kate Berridge is the author of Vigor Mortis and has contributed to Vogue, the Spectator, the Sunday Times, and Town & Country, among other publications. She lives in London, England.

From Publishers Weekly:

This smart biography reveals the fascinating life of the woman behind the still-thriving world famous wax museum. In Berridge's capable hands, Madame Tussaud, nee Marie Grosholtz (1761-1850), is presented as "a cultural innovator," the architect behind "the first and most enduring worldwide brand to be identified simply by reference to its founder's name." Berridge uses deft capsule histories of the French Revolution and popular entertainments of the day to support her interpretations of Tussaud's life and work. Dividing her life into three periods-early years, traveling and fame-Berridge critically examines Tussaud's 1838 autobiography, calling into question and reinterpreting much of the press-savvy show woman's complex background, most significantly young Marie's role as French Revolution "victim." Berridge's post-modern analysis of the cultural role played by life size wax likenesses in an era before the photograph is insightful and prescient, especially her reading of Tussaud as a progenitor of the "nascent cult of celebrity" through her tastefully voyeuristic exhibits of the famous and infamous, and her claims of direct connection to many of the figures. Highly recommended for pop culture enthusiasts, biography readers and wax nuts.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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