Romanesque and gothic stylistic forms and letters soon became out of fashion while scores of artists went on to reach fame as from during the second half of the 15th Century. They not only worked for the Church but also for many European royal and princely courts as well as some rich merchants and bankers, firstly in Italy then in France, England, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Flanders.
And the art trade came back to life as soon as artists like Mantegna, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael,
Michelangelo or Albrecht Dürer became famous throughout Europe. And naturally, forgeries appeared on the market.
One of the most famous forgers was Michelangelo himself who as a young student found amusing to make a copy of a Roman statuette showing Cupid asleep. He eventually sold it to a cardinal as a genuine antique piece but could not prevent himself from boasting about his trick. As a result on learning that he had been fooled the cardinal got infuriated and destroyed the statuette. One can easily imagine that such fake, as any Renaissance copy of a Roman or Greek work of art and albeit the fact that it was made by such a great artist, would today be worth a little fortune on the market.
Many copies of antique marble statues were made as early as 1500 as proved in a letter sent by the banker Jakob Fugger to his agent in Italy asking him to be cautious when buying sculptures for his Antiquarium in Munich. Albrecht Dürer was much copied during his lifetime and it is known that he often used to complain about those forgers who were going as far as to use his initials on bad copies. In one of his engravings relating to the life of the Virgin, the German master added the following inscription :
"Be cursed , plunderers and imitators of the work and talent of others". In fact, the reputation of some Italian, Flemish, German and Dutch masters had reached such level throughout Europe that many artists simply came under their influence. Some 500 years later it is difficult to say whether some of the lesser-known painters had either adopted their styles or tried to make copies to earn a living. It is even sometimes impossible to determine whether a painting or a sculpture was really produced by such or such master or by a pupil who became as much, if not more, notorious in the history of painting. Scores of masters were copied throughout the 16th Century mostly by their pupils who needed stylistic references as part of their training. Michelangelo himself often produced replicas of the drawings of Ghirlandajo who on seeing them thought they were from his own hand. Hendrik Goltzius, another great master, produced copies of the works of other legendary artists just to prove his talent.