Le Musée Grévin
Before the 20th century, photography was so expensive that newspapers rarely used it.
Arthur Meyer, a journalist and founder of the newspaper Le Gaulois, wanted members of the public to be able to see the people who dominated the news. Inspired by Madame Taussards’ collection, he asked Alfred Grévin, a cartoonist, sculptor and costume designer, to make the wax models of these public figures. The museum was named in Grévin’s honour and opened in June 1882.
Over a century later, a friend and I visited the museum. Some parts of it were outdated, like the Hall of Mirrors, but all of it was fun. We went in the off season, so we got to go straight in and spend as long as we liked looking at, and posing for silly photographs with, famous people from throughout history.
We visited most of the approximately 300 models. Some of them looked uncannily real, others looked more like a toddler had made them out of play dough. My favourites included Ray Charles (who was belting out a tune at a piano), Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, (a young, thin) Gérard Depardieu and Napoléon.
The scene of Charlotte Corday murdering French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat (made famous by Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting La Mort de Marat) has the actual knife and bath from the crime scene!
I enjoyed the Musée Grévin that little bit more because the friend I went with is une vraie Parisienne. She described and often acted out a number of the French celebrities. She explained what they mean to her, her family and the nation.
For example, ’60s and ’70s French pop sensation Claude François. François is famous for his sequinned costumes, blow-waved, blonde hair and choreographed routines with his dance group, Les Claudettes.
François rose to fame by writing and singing rock and roll tunes in the ’60s (and doing a lot of French covers of popular English and American songs). He reinvented himself as the King of the French Disco in the late ’70s. He wrote ‘Comme d’habitude’, the original version of ‘My Way’.’ He died after being electrocuted in his bath in 1978. One of his biggest hits, ‘Alexandrie Alexandra’ was issued on the day of his burial. Here is a link to a video of a performance of it. It is pure disco gold!
Here is me impersonating a Claudette.
Another thing I found particularly funny was this very favourable description of France’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. It implies that only such a series of unfortunate circumstances could have weakened a French army.
Le Musée Grévin
10, boulevard Montmartre 75009 Paris
Open weekdays 10am-6.30pm; weekends 10am-7pm; holidays 9.30am-7pm.
For more information click here All images © Laura Griffin