||â€˜Copyâ€™, to the Western art critic, means a non-fraudulent manual imitation produced by a third party of another work of art. Thus the copy is not a version or replica, which properly refers to a copy made by the artist of the original or under his/her control. Neither is the copy the product of mechanical means of duplication such as a reproduction, nor is it identical with a fake or forgery, where the intention is to deceive.
Multiplication of a prototype has been a motivating force in the creation of copies since antiquity. The excellence of Greek sculpture was admired by the Romans who invented little but perfected mechanical means of copying, which allowed for the duplication of the chosen original. Many Greek sculptures, such as the LaocoÃ¶n, are today known through their Roman copies. Medieval guild practice in Europe encouraged the repetition of workshop formulas and of successful prototypes rather than the invention of new artistic solutions. Medieval artists were less interested in notions of originality in the design or execution of the work as in the use of genuine (authentic) materials of the first quality.
During the Renaissance, a more conscious sense of rivalling antiquity meant that artists measured themselves against past art, while acknowledging that antiquity embodied a near-perfect formal solution to the representation of human form. Michelangelo won prestige by imitating antiques which were taken for originals. However, artists soon became careful to show that their copies were works created in the spirit of homage or for the purposes of study, because the public now demanded of practitioners a sense of individuality hitherto not part of the artistic persona. The need to differentiate between original and copy led to the rise of connoisseurship (often erroneously regarded as synonymous with the work of the art historian).
Copying thus became for artists a means to study the art of the past. Artists as markedly original as Rubens advocated the emulation of antiquity. With the rise of the academies in the 17th century, a system of values, which antiquity was held to best embody, was taught primarily through the study and execution of copies. Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the Discourses, professed the doctrine that imitation, for the purposes of instruction, was far removed from slavish copying of appearances. Instead the aim was to re-create the conditions of the making of the original even if in practice this tended to mean literally copying the models prescribed by the academics.
By the 19th century art training adhered rigidly to the doctrine of the imitation of past art. This attitude engendered in students the dangerous belief that past art had accomplished everything and little remained to be done. The advent of modernism, however, meant that artists ceased to regard copying as an essential part of training. The copy made for the purposes of study was superseded by the interpretative copy, such as Francis Bacon\'s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) or Picasso\'s reworking of compositions after Manet or VelÃ¡squez, which challenge the original by refusing to regard it as authoritative.
However, the copy is not absent from contemporary art practice. Pop Art, for example, challenged the notions of originality: are Andy Warhol\'s prints of the Mona Lisa copies, parodies, or original works of art? Today postmodern interest in intertextuality, where rigid notions of original/copy, or indeed authentic/inauthentic have ceased to have meaning, is restructuring fundamental notions of what constitutes the domain of art. MG PD