During the 19th century, artists would apply varnish to their works on the day before the public opening of an exhibition. As early as 1809, patrons and other members of the art-world elite began a tradition of viewing the show on varnishing day, known to the French as vernissage.
Today, artists seldom apply varnish the night before a show, but the term vernissage is still used to refer to an early preview of an art exhibition. Most often private or invitation-only events, the vernissage is an opportunity for collectors and members of the press to view the works before the doors open to the general public.
(placing on stage)