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Madlena Cavelti Hammer:

Construction and influence of the relief model of the Swiss Interior by Franz Ludwig Pfyffer

Cartographica Helvetica 18 (1998) 11–18


The relief model of the Swiss Interior in a scale of approx. 1: 12,500 (horizontal direction) and 1:10,000 (vertical) was constructed by Franz Ludwig Pfyffer between 1762 and 1786. The size of the relief is approx. 3.9 x 6.6 m and it is southeast-oriented. Because of the renovation of the Gletschergarten Museum in Lucerne, the model had to be moved to another room. Due to its size it had to be broken up into smaller pieces which revealed interesting details on the interior of the model. The experts could analyse for the first time in hundred years the construction of the model and the material used.

It was discovered that Pfyffer used as a foundation for his relief 136 wooden boxes of various sizes which he ingeniously put together in a way that the joints are hardly noticeable. Pieces of timber, bricks, charcoal and cardboard served as construction material for the landscaping. A mixed gypsum/sand solution and beeswax was used for the top layer. Strings held in place by pins were used to indicate roads and paths. Then the model was painted with oil based paint or Tempera colour. Over the years the original green colour faded to a brownish one. By restoring the model it is hoped to regain at least partly its original state.

Several times the relief was used as a base for printed maps, in 1777 by Balthasar Anton Dunker for his bird's-eye view map (Plan perspectif d'une grande partie . . .) and in 1786 by Jakob Joseph Clausner for a map of Central Switzerland (Carte en Perspective du Nord au Midi . . .).

Bibliographic note

  • Also published as: Franz Ludwig Pfyffers 'Höhenflug' – Das Relief der Urschweiz (1762–1786). In: Der Weltensammler. Eine aktuelle Sicht auf die 16 000 Landkarten des Johann Friedrich von Ryhiner (1732–1803). ed. Thomas Klöti, Markus Oehrli, Hans-Uli Feldmann. Murten, 1998. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 15). pp. 36–38.

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