I have posted a photograph of the White Rhinoceros group at the American Museum of Natural History before (in stereo, if I remember correctly). The 1937 diorama has a fine background painting by James Perry Wilson. It is located in a corner of the mezzanine level of the Akeley Hall of African of Mammals in a corner with a low ceiling (which wilson tries to disguise with heavy rain clouds). To fit the two large White Rhinos in the tight space without them standing too close to the observer, one is located very close to the painted background. To help mitigate against a shadow on the background (which would collapse the illusion of depth) apparently the hidden side of the Rhino is painted white. This possibility of negating one’s shadow has been teasing me recently and will be part of the new instrument I am working on.
A small diorama nestled between the main views of North American Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Background painting by James Perry Wilson.
The Buffalo group at the American Museum of Natural History is not my favourite J.P. Wilson Diorama but there is a treat if you look inside the return on the far right hand side (top image) where a buffalo painted on the background crosses between the far right hand edge of the background and the painted section of the return to the viewing window. The part of the animal on the background is painted normally but on the return it is painted anamorphically. Pictures from inside the diorama reveal a pot bellied buffalo, at least on its left hand side, to compensate for the viewing angle. The furthest away part of the buffalo is painted on the surface closest to the observer.
By the way, note that the horizon is not adjusted anamorphically on the return – perhaps because the viewing window is so wide that it is hard to know where to imagine the observer’s eye?.
An early (I believe the earliest) J.P. Wilson diorama at the American Museum of Natural History
Between 1912 and 1965 this zoo occupied what is now a picnic area in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. The scenographic enclosures are now available for anyone to enter. They are arranged along the lower edge of a small escarpment, to be viewed from below. They are serviced from above, with a series of protected tunnels allowing the keepers to feed the animals. I will post some pictures of these and some of the other infrastructure (that was hidden above the enclosure) in my next post. The Zoo moved to a larger site in the park.