The Rigorous Process of Becoming a Wax Figure in Madame Tussauds

May 30, 2022 | Art, Articles, People

The first Madame Tussauds wax museum was opened in London. Nowadays, there are branches all over the world. But the Madame Tussauds in London is the largest, and one of the most popular major tourist attractions in London.

What does it take for a person to become a wax figure in the most famous museum? Well, the process is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it is a long and hard process that can take up to four months to complete.

The Process Explained

From the initial sitting to the launch of the wax figure it takes up to four months. The process requires more than 20 skilled artists, and costs more than $200,000.

Before the process starts, a team takes more than 250 precise measurements and 180 photographs of the subject. It is all in the spirit of making as precise and as accurate figure as possible. If the subject is not available, the artists can study photographs of the subject and watch hours of video in order to create the figure.

The figure is 2% larger than the actual person. You might wonder why? Simple, the museum estimates that that is how much wax is expected to melt during the process. While there are new techniques, the initial process hasn’t changed a lot since Madame Tussaud made her first figure and employed the initial team.

The sitting

The first part of the process is the sitting. This is when measurements are taken and photographs are shot. The team needs photos from every angle of astar, just so they ensure the portrayal is 100% accurate. Fun fact: even the eyes, hair, and skin are color matched.

The Sculpting

After the sitting, the team starts with sculpting. They construct a metal armature to support the clay mold, and then built it up using meticulous detail. Another team works on the head separately. It takes four to six weeks sculpt the head.

Fun fact: each stand of hair is inserted individually. This takes up to five weeks to complete, as there are up to 100,000 hairs on each head. To create the veins in the eyeball, the team uses a red silk thread.

The molding

At this point, the team creates a plaster cast from the clay sculpture, and then the melted wax is slowly poured into the mold to avoid the air bubbles. They wait for 50 minutes, and then remove excess liquid wax to leave a hollow head, into which eyes and teeth are inserted. Each body is molded the same way, but it is then made from fiberglass for durability.

Finishing process

During the finishing process, the team applies 10 layers of oil based paints to the figure. They aim for realistic skin tones, and real human hair is individually inserted into the wax. The hair is cut and styled to match the desired look. At the very end, a team of critiques reviews the figure before it is approved for the public.

Who is Madame Tussauds?

The real name of Madame Tussauds is Anna Maria “Marie” Tussaud. She was born in Strasbourg, France in 1761. Her mother worked as a housekeepr for a famous doctor in Switzerland. He was a physician skilled in wax modeling. He taught Tussaud the art of wax modeling.

Her first sculpture was Francois Voltaire, and she made it at the age of 16. During the French Revolution, she was imprisoned because was seen as a royal sympathizer. Her influential friend intervened and she was released after three months.

Following the death of Philippe Curtius in 1794, the doctor who taught her wax modelling, she inherited the collection of wax models. She spent the next 33 years traveling through Europe.

In 1835, she moved to London, and opened her first museum in Baker Street. Since then, her museum leaves visitors excited by the wide array of celebrities and historical persons featured in the museum.

The museum features 14 interactive areas, and has more than 300 wax figures.

Fun facts about the museum

  • Some of the sculptures were done by Marie Tussaud herself
  • You can also see Anna Maria Tussaud’s wax figure, a portrait she made 8 years before her death
  • The oldest figure to display is Madame du Barry, a work done by Curtis from 1765
  • The Incredible Hulk is the largest figure ever made, standing at 14.7 feet high
  • Mother Teresa declined an invitation to get sculpted, believing that her work was more important than her physical being
  • Two maintenance teams check each and every figure at the museum daily before the museum opens

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Thomas B.