It will be asked, How is imitation to be rendered healthy and vital? Unhappily, while it is easy to enumerate the signs of life, it is impossible to define or to communicate life; and while every intelligent writer on Art has insisted on the difference between the copying found in an advancing or recedent period, none have been able to communicate, in the slightest degree, the force of vitality to the copyist over whom they might have influence. Yet it is at least interesting, if not profitable, to note that two very distinguishing characters of vital imitation are, its Frankness and its Audacity; its Frankness is especially singular; there is never any effort to conceal the degree of the sources of its borrowing. Raffaelle carries off a whole figure from Masaccio, or borrows an entire composition from Perugino, with as much tranquillity and simplicity of innocence as a young Spartan pickpocket; and the architect of a Romanesque basilica gathered his columns and capitals where he could find them, as an ant picks up sticks. There is at least a presumption, when we find this frank acceptance, that there is a sense within the mind of power capable of transforming and renewing whatever it adopts; and too conscious, too exalted, to fear the accusation of plagiarism,—too certain that it can prove, and has proved, its independence, to be afraid of expressing its homage to what it admires in the most open and indubitable way; and the necessary consequence of this sense of power is the other sign I have named—the Audacity of treatment when it finds treatment necessary, the unhesitating and sweeping sacrifice of precedent where precedent becomes inconvenient.
— John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture