3D Collection – a Renaissance Wooden Sundial

Very little is known about this Renaissance wooden sundial. Based on an inscription on the floor inside the cube, we know that it was painted, or at most also made, by painter Jakob Hofmann from Schwäbisch Hall in 1597. This Renaissance painter was born in 1561, his date of death and other biographical key data are not known.1 The object bears no indications of another maker.

Aussschnitt Innenseite Sonnenuhr, Inschrift Jakob Hofman
Inscription: Durch Jakob Hofman, maler Zu Schwäbisch Hall anno 1597, Screenshot aus 3D-Modell von KGS_001, Sammlung wissenschaftlicher Instrumente und Lehrmittel, ETH-Bibliothek.

Like the other sundials, this one also comes from Rudolf Wolf’s collection. The sundial is noted in Wolf’s inventory as having been “donated by Mrs Trechsler in Schaffhausen”. 2 No further information on Mrs Trechsler can be gleaned from the inventory. Moreover, this is the only object from this donor in Rudolf Wolf’s collection. The donor may have been Maria Cleophea Trechsler, the second wife of Schaffhausen antiquities collector Hans Wilhelm Harder. He himself owned a collection which he bequeathed to the Historical-Antiquarian Society. 3 Mrs Trechsler may well have bequeathed an object from her husband’s collection to well-known scientist and collector Rudolf Wolf.

The sundial has two longer inscriptions – one titled “Report of the Compass” on the bottom of the clock (annotation 3) and a poem on an inner side of the clock (annotation 4). In the poem, the maker exhorts people to honour time and health as gifts from God. Anyone who abuses the gifted time is said to commit a great sin, for it passes quickly and old age with its ailments comes soon. Sundials often bore references to the meaning of time and to God.

3D Digitalisation

Object selection
Like the other sundials digitalised in the project, this one belongs to, and indicates the main focus of, Rudolf Wolf’s collection. By digitalising different types of sundials, we can, on the one hand, show the diversity of such instruments, and, on the other hand, also make developments in science and manual trades comprehensible. The digitalisation also allows us to rotate the object, which is already very old, without having to manipulate it.

By the way: With the key combination ALT CTRL and left mouse button you can simulate the sunlight on Sketchfab. So you can get an impression of how you could read the time with the sundials.

Photogrammetry and modelling
This object is mainly made of painted wood. Some of its elements are made of metal and glass. Because of the materials used in its making, this sundial was easy to digitalise. The glass of the compass was created manually. As the object has no moving parts, no animation was required here.

1. Wolf, Rudolf: Verzeichniss der Sammlungen der Zürcher- Sternwarte, Zürich 1873, S. 3-4, https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-a-000499583.
2. ibid.

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