Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
ver·nis·sage [ver-nuh-sahzh; Fr. ver-nee-sazh] –noun, plural -sages [-sah-zhiz; Fr. -sazh].
1.Also called varnishing day. the day before the opening of an art exhibition traditionally reserved for the artist to varnish the paintings.
2.a reception at a gallery for an artist whose show is about to open to the public.

[Origin: 1910–15; <>See varnish, -age]
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.


I saw this word for the first time today. Is it commonly used? I'm going to use this the next chance I can. Since it has to do with varnishing, is it only for paintings, I wonder.

Courtesy of JB at Mainz Daily Photo, with a photo of one of Lloyd Harwood's painting.


  1. Meg, in Europe and the USA it is used liberally for any artist's opening reception.

    Going to vernissages is a popular Friday evening activity in the Washington DC Dupont area, where many galleries are located. One wanders from gallery to gallery, sipping a bit of wine, getting cheese and crackers to munch along, while admiring the newly installed exhibitions.

    I didn't know about the first definition, til I read it her. ;-)

  2. I love the graphic origins of the term. Here, it's called an opening, except sometimes, as with books, etc., they are called a "launch" - this is a real boatie-nation.

    I was told also that there are lots of openings on Tuesday night here - I haven't verified, because I like a slow weekend fête, but week night vernisage might make a nice, quick pleasurable habit.

    I'm not going anywhere near your Dupont area description - suffice it to say, if I lived anywhere near there, I'd be a regular in the warmer months...


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