20th Century Traditional Diorama Shows 19th Century Interior

I'm very curious about this piece. It's almost 18" by 10 1/2" and 2" deep made out of wood. It says on the table cross piece 1848 and on the back made in Austria. I can't read the writing on the note on the back and suspect it's not written in English. My grandparents gave it to my dad and I've always been fascinated with the intricate pieces and detail and enjoy just looking at it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Although the date on the table reads 1848 this diorama is a 20th century creation.

Although the date on the table reads 1848 this diorama is a 20th century creation.

What you have is generally called a 3D diorama or a shadow box interior scene.  This craft is most typically found in towns in Germany and Austria along the Erzgebirge range of mountains.  It is a nice example of a region re-inventing itself economically after the original industry bringing settlers to the town was depleted. 

Erzgebirge translates to Ore Mountain.  According to geologists, locals began excavating tin – a component of the bronze alloy - in the area as early as 3000 B.C.   The heavily forested landscape provided ample wood used for firing the tin smelters; local waterways provided hydropower and transportation.   Over the centuries, as tin mining spread westward across Europe, tin deposits in Erzgebirge depleted.   According to the website for the central Erzgebirge town of Seiffern, the mining office there closed in 1849, signaling the end of the industry. 

Fortunately for the region, the same landscape that provided wood to fuel smelters could also be also harnessed to turn steam and water powered lathes.  The woodturning and carving industry turned the Erzgebirge region into what is today one of theworld’s great today a great wooden toy producers.

If you have a nutcracker, a candle pyramid, a smoker figure or even wooden Christmas tree decorations it’s likely that they were made in the German or Austrian towns of the region.  Cozy shadowbox scenes like yours, composed of carved, turned and painted elements, are also typical for the area. 

These wooden pictures are still being produced and continue to delight with details of home live, professions and hobbies.  They are not terrifically valuable.  You can find them in specialty shops selling in the $100-300 range.