Presentation of reliefs [1]

Säntis (Switzerland) created by Carl Meili
Säntis, 2502 m (Switzerland) 1:5,000, 184 x 192 cm, Carl Meili, 1903,
Glacier Garden Lucerne

An adequate presentation of reliefs is indispensable to increase their impression and to enhance their longevity. Especially plaster models are heavy and cannot be easily removed, so they usually remain in a fixed position. Large scale models of high mountains should show their side-view to the viewer for greatest effect. If they slightly overtop the viewer, the silhouette of the mountain ridges is more impressive.

The effect of a terrain model strongly depends of the light direction and the type of ambient light. Especially models of mountainous regions profit from direct transverse (not diffuse) light coming from one direction, preferably from top angular. The light may be artificial or natural daylight. This allows even subtle forms of the landscape to emerge. Not suitable is all-side diffuse light or light parallel to the line of sight. Different from this illumination are the conditions for relief photography. Here hard shadows should be avoid, thus diffuse transverse light may produce good results. The light intensity should be consistent over the whole relief. [2]

Matterhorn (Switzerland) created by Xaver Imfeld
Matterhorn, 4478 m (Switzerland/Italy) 1:5,000, 96 x 140 cm, Xaver Imfeld, 1896, specially illuminated at the Nature Museum in Winterthur

It is possible to change the colour and direction of the light as to study the influence of the light or day time respectively on the shadow drop of mountains. For example, one could simulate the alpenglow, as demonstrated on Imfelds relief of the Jungfrau group at the World Exhibition of 1900 in Paris [3].

When the models are sheltered by glass, they are protected against dust and damage caused by visitors, but the glass barriers often slightly diminish visibility.

[1] This article bases on Imhof, Eduard. 1981. S.150-152 and on own observations.

[2] Imhof, Eduard. Kartenverwandte Darstellungen der Erdoberfläche. 1963. S.92.

[3] Wehrli, Leo. Das Imfeld’sche Jungfrau-Relief und die Entwicklung der Reliefkunst in der Schweiz. 1900. S.238.