ver·​nis·​sage ˌver-ni-ˈsäzh How to pronounce vernissage (audio)
: a private showing or preview of an art exhibition

Did you know?

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.

Examples of vernissage in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Speaking to a group of international Art journalists in Florence ahead of the vernissage for Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s installations, Fiaschi spoke to his penchant for finding synergy between art and unexpected locations. Jaimie Potters, Town & Country, 21 Aug. 2023 Despite the fancy soirees like these – with drinks and appetizer trays fit for a Paris vernissage – sandbags still shield monuments and buildings across the city. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Mar. 2023 Housed within Somerset House, the fair held its vernissage party on Wednesday evening. Jaimie Potters, Town & Country, 10 Oct. 2019 Like its other iterations in Miami and Basel, Switzerland, the weeklong calendar of events is more than just an art fair; buyers abound and circulate at dinners, there are artist meet and greets aplenty, and, yes, more than a handful of vernissages. Zachary Weiss, Vogue, 26 Mar. 2019 The houses began aggressively hyping a never-ending flow of new inventory, and with it, a jet-set lifestyle of multi-million dollar auctions, exclusive gallery dinners, and VIP art fair vernissages. Rachel Wetzler, The New Republic, 26 Feb. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vernissage.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from French, "day before an exhibition opens reserved for artists to varnish and put finishing touches on their paintings" (probably after English varnishing day), literally, "varnishing," from vernisser "to varnish" (going back to Middle French vernecier, vernicier) + -age -age — more at varnish entry 2

First Known Use

1912, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of vernissage was in 1912


Dictionary Entries Near vernissage

Cite this Entry

“Vernissage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!