It was originally called "Cabaret des Assassins". Tradition relates that the cabaret received this name because a band of assassins broke in and killed the owner's son. The cabaret was more than twenty years old when, in 1875, the artist Andre Gill painted the sign that was to suggest its permanent name. It was a picture of a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan, and residents began calling their neighborhood night-club "Le Lapin à Gill", meaning "Gill's rabbit".
Over time the name evolved into "Cabaret Au Lapin Agile", or, the Nimble Rabbit Cabaret. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Lapin Agile was a favorite spot for struggling artists and writers, including Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire, and Utrillo.
The Lapin Agile is located in the center of the Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, behind and slightly northwest of Sacre Coeur Basilica. Since this was the heart of artistic Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, there was much discussion at the cabaret about "the meaning of art".
Au Lapin Agile also was popular with questionable Montmartre characters including pimps, eccentrics, simple down-and-outers, a contingent of local anarchists, as well as with students from the Latin Quarter, all mixed with a sprinkling of well-heeled bourgeois out on a lark.
Pablo Picasso's 1905 oil painting "At the Lapin Agile" helped to make this cabaret world famous. The cabaret was often captured on canvas by another Montmartre artist, Maurice Utrillo.
In 1993 American comedian and entertainer, Steve Martin, wrote a play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which had a successful run in Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. The play depicted an imagined meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein at the Lapin Agile.
Today, many people visit the Lapin Agile, sitting at wooden tables where initials have been carved into the surfaces for decades. Located in a stone building on the steep and cobbled Rue des Saules, the cabaret presents visitors with French songs dating back as far as the fifteenth century.
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