In the late 19th century, the lower section of Montmartre was home to many cabarets, such as le Chat Noir and le Moulin Rouge. The district, like the cabarets themselves, were often dangerous places. Crime and prostitution riddled the area, while the top of the hill was a refuge for many locals. A place where the air was clear, it remained like the village it once was. It was at this point that Au Lapin Agile first opened its doors in 1860.
Originally named ‘Au Rendez-vous des voleurs’ (Thieves Meeting Point), it became the Cabaret des Assassins (The Assassins Cabaret) in 1869. The cabaret was once again renamed ten years after Andre Gill’s portrait of himself as a rabbit escaping from a pot intended for him. Gill, a local patron had painted the caricature of himself to present him escaping his punishment as part of the Commune. Consequently, the cabaret would assume the name ‘Au Lapin a Gill’ (Gill’s Rabbit); which would later transform into Au Lapin Agile.
The Lapin Agile was a popular spot for the Chat Noir’s famous clientele, such as Cross, Rictus and Allias. The artists would often spend their days in the Lapin Agile and their evenings in lower Montmartre. The turn of the century saw the cabaret become one of Montmartre’s cultural institutions. Frequented by many of the eras most prominent artists, such as Picasso, Apollinaire and Max Jacob; au Lapin Agile was just as popular with the local criminals.
in 1905, Picasso painted the Lapin Agile into history, with his namesake painting, which was exhibited in the cabaret until 1912. It was later sold at auction for over $40 million and donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
After falling into disrepair and disrepute, the cabaret was purchased by one of Montmarte’s most popular figures, Aristide Bruant in 1902. Saved from demolition, Au Lapin Agile was unable to find the same popularity. The artistic centre of Paris had moved from Montmartre to Montparansse, however, the cabaret remained a popular meeting point for locals and celebrities alike.
The local painter Maurice Utrillo, who is buried adjacently, created many portraits of the cabaret before his passing in 1955. Today, Au Lapin Agile endures as a living reminder of Montmartre’s colourful past. Tourists and locals alike visit to sing alongside the owners, just like they did a century ago.
Au Lapin Agile is a short and scenic walk from our hostel. Book today and visit the legendary cabinet for yourself, just a stones throw from our wonderful location.