By the sixteenth century, visual imagery such as paintings, metalwork, sculpture, or fashion had become an increasingly important mode of communication. Images conveyed prestige, thus ensuring that the patronage of the powerful remained an essential source of support for artists and artisans and a spur to aesthetic and technological innovation. Although new styles and techniques circulated widely throughout Europe, artists still retained a sense of regional difference. Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) and other northern “masters,” such as Hans Holbein and Jan van Eyck, helped give Northern European art its own distinct character. Dürer’s style was recognized at the time as both unique and uniquely German, and he was held up in subsequent centuries as a preeminent “German genius,” becoming a symbol in his own right.