En vedette

samedi 8 mai 2010

Varnishing and Polishing

Le présent billet a été rédigé par Jonathan Goldberg, que je remercie. Vous aurez prochainement la possibilité de le comparer avec la version française.

The Los Angeles Times recently wrote an article on one of famed architect Pierre Koenig’s “case study houses” in Hollywood, (three minutes from my home), owned by an anonymous art collector. It made mention of a showing of Korean paintings at the house.

The article contained the following sentence: “At the vernissage last month, VIPs rubbed elbows….”.

Readers will probably know that vernissage in French means “varnishing” in English. The etymology is interesting: vernissage (Fr.) is from vernis (varnish), originally from Berenik, the name of an ancient city in Cyrenaica in northern Africa where natural resins were first used as varnish.

The Collins Dictionary gives one of the meanings of “vernissage” as “varnishing day”.

So was the Los Angeles Times suggesting that workers were still completing the varnishing of the house’s woodwork while VIPs rubbed elbows? No, the newspaper was using the word in an entirely different sense:

a private showing held before the opening of an art exhibition. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language);

a preview or the opening or first day of an exhibition of paintings (Collins English Dictionary).

The connection between those seemingly unrelated definitions (varnishing and artwork preview) is explained by the fact that “vernissage” was, traditionally, the day before the official opening of an art exhibition and was reserved for the artists to varnish or put finishing touches to their paintings. It was later extended to mean the first day of showing of paintings, whether in a private preview or when they were put on display to the public.

Not far from the Pierre Koenig house, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, will be playing at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. They will undoubtedly give polished performances.

2 commentaires:

  1. That was an interesting article René, thanks for sharing! It's interesting to find out how words came to be, in both languages.