from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A private showing held before the opening of an art exhibition.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A private viewing of an art exhibition before it opens to the public.


French, from vernis, varnish, from Old French; see varnish.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French vernissage, derived from the earlier habit of the artists to varnish their paintings the day before the opening of an exhibition. (Wiktionary)



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  • 'Vernis' is French for 'varnish'. Oil paintings were (and still are, I think) protected by a coat of varnish. Folkloric-ly, this would take place in the last-minute rush, just before an opening, leading to the 'preview' of a collection being the 'varnishing'. Presumably with the artists friends pitching in.

    July 16, 2008

  • A private showing or preview of an art collection.

    May 11, 2008