Behind the scenes
The way in which the wax figures are produced these days hardly differs from how Madame Tussauds herself made them back in 1790.
The production of a wax figure takes an average of 3 months once a decision has been made as to who is going to be considered for a wax likeness. Various specialists and professional people are involved with this process. The person involved will pose in almost all cases, whereby the sculptor will take all measurements from top to bottom. A photographer will take photographs from all possible angles. These photographs aren’t just used by the sculptor when producing the clay figure, but also at a later stage when the figure is coloured and its hair is styled. The colour specialists look at the colour of the skin, eyes, teeth and any make-up used when working with ladies. A hairdresser is also on hand, who uses samples to decide on the right colour of the hair and eyebrows and, providing the person agrees, cuts off a piece of the person’s hair.
At the same time as the clay figure (a figure is first entirely modelled in clay), the eyes and teeth are reproduced as true to life as possible. The colour of the eyes is carefully determined with the help of an overview which includes all sorts of different colour combinations. A plaster model of the teeth will be produced, which is usually done by the sculpted person’s own dentist.
A professional caster will produce a plaster mould of the head and hands once the sculptor has finished the clay model. Hot wax will be poured into this mould. The plaster will be carefully peeled off once the wax has cooled down and the head will be ready to be coloured.
A team of experts will colour the wax head and hands (these are often the only parts made with wax). Reproducing a specific haircut is a very detailed and precise job. Real hair is used and is literally inserted into the head hair by hair! Once the hair is done, it will be washed, cut and blow-dried.
A plaster mould is also produced of the clay body. This mould is filled up with fibreglass - the body of a figure is always produced using fibreglass. If this was completely made of wax, it would be too heavy and sag. The figure is subsequently ready to be dressed. The person being portrayed usually provides the clothing for his or her figure.
London - Amsterdam
Once the wax figure has undergone a final inspection, it is prepared for shipping from London to Amsterdam. The figure is transported from the Tussauds Studios in the car and by ferry with a special driver. The hair will be restyled and the clothing neatly prepared before the figure is placed in the attraction. The cost of every wax figure amounts to around € 85000,-.
Maintenance of the figures
Madame Tussauds Amsterdam has a Portrait Care department, where the figures are maintained. Portrait Care conducts an inspection round in the morning before the visitors arrive, looking for figures which need a little attention. Visitors in Madame Tussauds Amsterdam are allowed to touch the figures and admire them from very close by. It is therefore a regular occurrence that someone accidentally damages the face with his or her ring or perhaps pulls some hair loose. Portrait Care will deal with any minor repairs like scratches, loose hairs and such like. However, should something more major need to happen, like a broken finger for example, then the figure will need to be transported back to England, where it will be repaired in the Tussauds Studios.
The figures are regularly removed for maintenance in Amsterdam. The clothing will be taken to the dry cleaners, the hair washed with shampoo and blow-dried back into the required style. Make-up can also be touched up with paint. This is done in a special way, by splashing paint onto the face and neck. This results in a very natural effect, as normal skin is often also somewhat speckled. Glasses and other jewellery are invisibly, yet securely, attached to the figure in order to combat theft. Some figures are also equipped with extra security with an alarm installation, so if people tried to move them, an alarm would go off.