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Barbara Regina Dietzsch
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Painter of flowers and animals. Daughter of Johann Israel. London and Nuremberg were the chief centers of botanical illustration in the eighteenth century, and at Nuremberg one of the most illustrious names associated with this genre was Dietzsch. But more than one Dietzsch painted flora and fauna: Barbara's father, Johann Israel, her brother, Johann Christoph, and her sister, Margareta, all were employed by the Nuremberg court. The family's work was collected in the Netherlands and England as well. Botany was an important aspect of medical training until the later nineteenth century, and physicians of the time, like all biologists, were concerned primarily with description and classification. Furthermore, as medicine represented a marriage of many fields, it was not unusual for a physician to be a patron of the arts, especially when these arts served to enhance the appreciation of natural history. Thus it was that Dr. Christoph Jocob Trew (1695-1760), who had a deep interest in botany and bibliography, enthusiastically supported botanical art in Nuremberg, making the city an important center for work such as that of the Dietzsch family. Although their art seems to present the natural world theatrically, it does so to focus on the beauty and wonder of natural structure and color, without mythical or religious symbolism. These concerns were shared by leading natural philosophers of the day and, as works inspired by this new emphasis, the jewel-like gouaches of the Dietzsches reflect a fascinating period in the history of science. Because all four Dietzsches treated similar subject matter and commonly chose to present their compositions against a black background, attribution is a challenge. All were competent to execute detailed and dramatic renditions of common flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and many examples can be studied at Bamburg and at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.