London, 1921. The world's greatest wax sculptor watches in horror as flames consume his museum and melt his uncannily lifelike creations. Twelve years later, he opens a wax museum in New York. Crippled, disfigured, and driven mad by the fire, he resorts to body snatching and murder to populate his displays, preserving the bodies in wax. "In a thousand years you will be as lovely as you are now, " he assures one victim. In The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), director Michael Curtiz perfectly captures the macabre essence of realistic wax figures that have excited the darker aspects of the public's imagination ever since Madame Tussaud established her famous museum in London in 1802. Artists, too, have been fascinated by wax sculptures, seeing in them--and in the unique properties of wax itself--an eerie metaphoric power with which to address sexual anxiety, fears of mortality, and other morbid subjects. In Waxworks, Michelle E. Bloom explores the motif of the wax figure in European and American literature and art. In particular, she connects the myth of Pygmalion to the obsession with wax statues of women in the nineteenth-century fetishization of prostitutes and female corpses and as depicted in such "wax fictions" as Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop (1841). Filmmakers, too, have sought inspiration from wax museums, and Bloom analyzes works from the silent era to such waxwork-themed Hollywood horror films as Mad Love (1935) and House of Wax (1953). Bringing her discussion to the present, Bloom examines the work of contemporary artists who use the medium of wax in ways never imagined by Madame Tussaud. As extravagant new wax museums open in Las Vegas, Times Square, and Paris, Waxworksoffers a provocative cultural history of this enduring--and disturbing--art form.