Happy Friday! Today’s Word of the Day from Dictionary.com is Vernissage. This is another one of those rare words that originally had a very different meaning.
Dictionary.com defines vernissage as a reception at a gallery for an artist whose show is about to open to the public; also called varnishing day (the day before the opening of an art exhibition traditionally reserved for the artist to varnish the paintings). It comes from the French word that literally means “a varnishing/touching up”. It entered the English language in the early 1900’s.
Vernissage has its roots in the old practice of setting aside a day before an exhibition’s opening for artists to varnish and put finishing touches to their paintings-a tradition that reportedly dates to at least 1809, when it was instituted by England’s Royal Academy of Arts. (One famous member of the Academy, Joseph Mallord William Turner, was notorious for making major changes to his paintings on this day.) English speakers originally referred to this day of finishing touches simply as “varnishing day,” but sometime around 1912 we also began using the French term vernissage (literally, “varnishing”). Today, however, you are more likely to encounter vino than varnish at a vernissage, which is often a gala event marking the opening of an exhibition.
I have never had an invitation to such an event, but apparently there is a certain protocol to follow, if you do. Even Miss Manners has something to say about it. I won’t bore you with her do’s and don’ts. I will just say that it is serious business to member of the Art world.
If you are honored with an invitation, behave and you might get invited again! Above all from what I’ve read, here are a few tips:
- If you are an artist, this is not the time or place to promote your art
- Use your indoor voice or better yet, keep your thoughts to yourself, especially if you are not fond of the artwork. Save the critique for the ride home.
- Avoid gluttony! Making a meal of the hors d’oeuvres is not cool. Eat before or after…don’t camp out near the food table…and just because you got an invitation to the gallery, does not mean you are invited to the artist’s reception dinner afterward.)
- Avoid drunkenness! After 3 glasses of the cheap wine or beer typically served at these events, Miss Manners advises you to leave!
- Keep your clothes on! Vanessa Castro in her article on the subject suggests leaving the nudity to the artist!
- For heaven’s sake, don’t hit on anybody while you’re there! Several etiquette sites made a point of this, so it must be a problem!
- …and one more tiny thing…do your homework before you go to avoid asking the featured artist WHO the featured artist is!!!
Gone are the days when a vernissage was a day of readying an art exhibition for the public. I daresay today’s artists need a vernissage (in the traditional sense) BEFORE their official Vernissage (in the modern application of the word)!
It’s a cool word though. I think it’s interesting to study the ways we tweak the meaning of words from their original intent into something entirely different. And…I am thankful I am not a time-traveler! Can you imagine how confusing that would be?
Here is my Haiku. Have a great weekend!
Some haughty snobs schmooze
at swanky vernissages
to laud art?…WHAT art?
kat ~ 25 March 2016