Lapin Agile is a famous cabaret, at 22 Rue des Saules. It’s located in a stone building in the centre of the Montmartre district, northwest of Sacre Coeur Basilica. The cabaret presents French songs dated back as far as the 15th century. You can literally touch the history in the form of carved initials of famous visitors.
It was originally called ‘Cabaret des Assassins’. The legend says that the cabaret got this name because a band of assassins broke in and killed the owner’s son. About twenty years after its foundation, 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 people began calling the place ‘Le Lapin à Gill’, meaning ‘Gill’s rabbit’. Finally the name evolved into ‘Cabaret Au Lapin Agile’, or the Nimble Rabbit Cabaret.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Lapin Agile was a favourite spot for struggling artists and writers, including Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire and Utrillo. Since back then this was the heart of artistic Paris, there was much discussion at the cabaret about ‘the meaning of art’.
Au Lapin Agile also was popular among dubious Montmartre characters including pimps, eccentrics, tramps, local anarchist groups, 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 portrayed by another Montmartre artist, Maurice Utrillo. In 1993 American comedian and entertainer, Steve Martin, wrote a play, ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile’, which depicted a fictional meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein at the Lapin Agile.