BARBARA REGINA DIETZSCH (Nuremberg 1706 – 1783 Nuremberg)

Barbara Regina Dietzsch

Barbara Regina Dietzsch (Nuremberg 1706 – 1783 Nuremberg)

A Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) on a Branch

Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum, brown-gold framing lines, 291 x 208 mm (11.5 x 8.2 inch)

~ With dealer Georges Mayer, 52 Faubourg St Honoré, Paris, early 20th century (presented on a wash mount with cartouche with previous attribution to Christoph Ludwig Agricola)
~ Private collection, The Netherlands


Barbara Regina Dietzsch was one of the finest botanical artists of her time. Born in Nuremberg in Southern Germany as the daughter of the painter, draughtsman and musician Johann Israel Dietzsch (1681–1754), she was taught the art of painting by her father.1 She was furthermore influenced by the works of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), another female artist who excelled in the representation of the natural world. Barbara Regina married the painter Nikolaus Chrisophter Matthes with whom she took up residence in Hamburg, and moved back to the town of her youth in her last years.

Dietzsch specialised in natural history subjects, carefully portrayed in watercolour and gouache. She primarily painted flowers, but also birds, plants and shells. Some of her works have monochrome backgrounds, whilst others, such as the present sheet, are set against landscape settings, generally bathing in a warm light. These subjects taken from the natural world reflect the growing academic interest of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, which can also for instance be seen in the emergence of encyclopedias, most notably that compiled by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, which was published in Paris from 1751 to 1766.

Barbara Regina Dietzsch is considered one of the leading female artists of the eighteenth century. Her works are described by Germaine Greer: “exact and linear, as one might expect of designs for an engraving, but in her more ambitious flower pieces she exhibited a conservatism of approach which was fairly antiquarium.”2

Works by Dietzsch are represented in leading museums and print rooms all over the world, including the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu. Our gouache is extremely comparable to a set of four portrayals of birds which are among the rich collections of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, particularly close to the Bullfinch from this set (fig.).3 The handling of the textures of the feathers, the landscape background, the tree and the leaves is extremely comparable to our sheet, which is also virtually identical in size.

I am grateful to Drs Charles Dumas for confirming the Dietzsch’s authorship.4


1. For Dietzsch, see Eyke Greiser, ‘Barbara Regina Dietzsch (1706-1783) und ihre Familie’ in Michael Roth, Magdalena Bushart and Martin Sonnabend, Maria Sibylla Merian und die Tradition des Blumenbildes, exh. cat., Berlin (Staatliche Museen Kupferstichkabinett) and Frankfurt (Städel Museum), 2017, pp. 205-227 and Jochen Schmidt-Liebich, Lexikon der Künstlerinen 1700-1900: Deutschlands, Österreich, Schweiz, Munich 2005, pp. 95-96.
2. Germaine Greer, The Obstacle Race: the Fortunes of Women Painters and their works, 2001, p. 247.
3. Gouache, 292 x 211 mm, inv. no. RP-T-1918-475.
4. Email correspondence, 22 March 2022.